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November 29, 2006

"Your Vote Counts"


This past election was a very important election with a great amount riding on every vote. We saw this in the close race between Tim Pawlenty and Mike Hatch. We now know that Pawlenty won, but could the 18-25 vote changed that outcome? I personally got very frustrated when, throughout the day, many of my peers and friends told me that they didn’t vote because they felt they wouldn’t make a difference. Over the past four years I have been in school, my tuition has dramatically increased and I have seen education suffer for the state. If all college students and individuals between 18-25 voted, would the result of the election been different? I am taking it back a little, but the education community is just that a community. 30 years ago, if the dramatic increase of tutition and lack of funding for education was an issue, and changing a governor would help change that fate, the entire education community would gather, and try to accomplish something. Putnam discussed housing and social communities, but communites can be expanded to everything. How is anything going to be accomplished with out the support of the majority of active participants? When those individuals that did not vote complain about what is going politically, I will have no sympathy for them. There needs to be a way to involve more young voters into the voting process, until then, nothing can truly be changed in this state or country.

November 28, 2006

Amy's the Winner

"Today you had the chance to raise your voice for change, and you did it." This quote is from the first elected female senator, Amy Klobuchar, who won by a landslide, 60% to 36% according to an article found on wcco.com, from this years past election. Klobuchar is speaking the words of what many Americans feel presently, that the war in Iraq and all the controversies in Washington needed to be changed. After Sen. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, announced his retirement, Klobuchar was one of the first Democrats to take a stand and to start a campaign which then would place her in the running for the elections. Her campaign was fierce against her opponent, Kennedy, which he ran a campaign based mostly on his military experience, and with the current war, this cost him the race. Klobuchar did not weigh in on the war as much as Kennedy did, she explained that one of her many goals was to somehow balance the budget from the war. It seems though, she was more focused on her goals of bettering the college tuition, and making health care more affordable. If you want to continue reading more about Amy Klobuchar and her opponents, go to http://wcco.com/election/local_story_310074816.html

First Muslim to Congress

As we all know, the elections have passed and the American people have chosen the ones to go to Washington to represent their states. By doing this, one state in particular made history...as Minnesota elected the first Muslim to Congress, Kieth Ellison. An article on wcco.com explains his history and election campaigns. It says that Ellison was elected to the 5th District and his main goals were focused not only on the urban community, but also the minority and religious communities, for example, Jewish. Ellision states in the report, "We were able to bring in Muslims, Christians, Jews. Buddhists," he said," We brought in everybody". Many people didn't know that Ellison was even a Muslim such as Hayat Hassan, a single mother who voted for him because of his beliefs or positions in which he'd take on in Congress, who states, "I didn't even know he was a Muslim until one of his campaign workers told me." If people did not know that he was of a different religion, would people still favor him, or would they have voted for another candidate? This would have been interesting to see. I thought I would touch base on this article because history was made especially for Minnesota since Keith Ellison was the first Muslim to Congress. It has brought the minority communities closer together and had brought some hope for other religions as well, knowing now how much they can succeed. To see the article, go to http://wcco.com/election/local_story_310080755.html

November 17, 2006

Instant Runoff Voting for Minneapolis

Earlier this semester I blogged on Instant Runoff Voting and how it is carried out and Minneapolis has just been added to the very short list of US cities that use, or will use, the system in future elections. San Francisco is another city that uses Instant Runoff Voting and it has actually made an impact on a recent district-supervisor election. After none of the candidates claimed the majority after the first round the lowest vote earning candidates were eliminated and their second votes were redistributed to the remaining candidates. The second votes were enough to push Ed Jew, a Chinese-America owner of a flower shop, to a 52% lead. Many labeled his victory as an upset and attributed it mostly to the amount of second votes that he received.

The Star Tribune recently ran an editorial about IRV as well, and how, if it had been in place in the last election could have changed the outcome of the 2006 Minnesota gubernatorial race. This is not the first time that third party votes have kept the winning candidate’s percentage below 50%. Tim Pawlenty recently won with 46.7% of the vote, which has left the majority dissatisfied with the victor. Leaving such a large proportion of voters unhappy would have been avoided had IRV been used. IRV would allow for the winner to hold onto the majority of the voters. This editorial also acknowledges that IRV will also encourage candidates to create appeal outside their defined party lines, which could be beneficial to the majority. Positions and plans would appeal across party lines possibly creating increased support.

Minneapolis voters approved a trial of IRV system in 2009 elections. It will be interesting to see if this system will soon be seen statewide or if it will flop. Currently the IRV system is a very uncommon technique with very few participating cities in the United States. With major cities like San Francisco and Minneapolis starting to use this technique it may ignite a nationwide trend. Other cities may use the Minneapolis trial as a model for potential use in their cities. With very few cities using the technique, Minneapolis may play a huge role in the spread to the rest of the country. There is a lot riding on Minneapolis for the proponents of Instant Runoff Voting.

November 12, 2006

Socialist Minnesota Debate: Why Support Democrats?

With the dust still settling from the elections, members and supporters of the local group, Socialist Alternative, met in a crowded room in the Walker Library on Saturday, November 11th for their first annual Socialist Minnesota Conference. Several speakers talked about issues such as class division, the war on terror, recent events in Oaxaca, and others from a Socialist perspective.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion with respect to what we have talked about on class was a debate between Ty Moore, organizer in Socialist Alternative, and Ed Felien, editor of The Pulse. The debate was titled “Should the left support progressive Democrats??

Ed made the classic “lesser of two evils? argument, also saying that progressives should vote for third parties when it won’t actually affect the outcome of the election. Ty Moore, however, made some interesting arguments about the way that party politics affects social movements, and how easily somebody becomes disenfranchised with party politics and gives up on activism through working with the Democratic Party. The basic argument laid out by Ty was that the Democratic Party is a “graveyard for social movements? and that once parties and candidates are elected to office, their language on certain issues changes, because of the pressure to fit into the status quo on Capitol Hill. The best example of this that he gave was the administration of Richard Nixon, which was in the time of strong social movements, versus the administration of Bill Clinton, when many progressives and leftists wound up supporting the centrist, neoliberal Clinton believing that Democrats would be easier to work with than Republicans, and therefor giving up energy that may have gone in to building movements in exchange for working on electing a politician. The administration of Richard Nixon was rather liberal in many ways, because of the expansion of women’s rights, environmental protections passed, and the eventual end to the war in Vietnam, because people were so active in those movements at the time. However, on the opposite side, we have the centrist Democrat Bill Clinton, who because of the lack of really close-knit social movements, was able to expand neoliberal policies throughout the world, despite the individual disagreements of many on the left.

Ty’s argument is one that is hard to disagree with, and many on the left still make the same mistake today. Despite the fact that a majority of Americans want an either immediate withdrawal or to soon start a gradual withdrawal, protests around the country have been getting smaller. The cause for this can be traced back to the campaign of 2004, when many people either worked for Kerry or stood down to give Kerry room, in hopes that if he won, they would have an influence over his decisions, despite the fact that he never spoke of leaving Iraq. And even now, after the Democrats have won the house and senate, we have Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean promising that there will be no real change in Iraq, leaving many on the left to ask their progressive democratic friends what the point of using so much energy in party politics was.

November 8, 2006

Canvassing for the elections

This past weekend I got to have the not so exciting experience of campaigning for Patty Wetterling in Lexington, Minnesota. As I have mentioned in earlier blog entries, I work at NARAL pro-choice Minnesota as a door-to-door fundraiser. Around election time people bid on us (this year it was between the SEIU and the AFL-CIO) and we get to go work on campaigns. The AFL-CIO “won? us and so we went off to Bachman’s district to campaign against her.

Continue reading "Canvassing for the elections" »

November 7, 2006

Capturing the Youth Vote

Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear the Reverend Jesse Jackson, as well as Keith Ellison speak to college students at Coffman Union. The event was hosted by the Black Student Union, and was an event designed to get the word out to college students about voting. Although the pitch of the speeches were designed to garner support for Keith Ellison, I also found them educational, and it was a unique experience to hear the prominent black activist Jesse Jackson give his opinions on the state of America. I agreed with much of what he had to say, particularly about the faults of our current administration, as well as the need for the youth to make their voice heard and take part in the democratic process of voting, however, I did take issue with a couple of his topics.

One point that Reverend Jackson made struck me as particularly applicable to the situation American society faces today, namely that citizens of this nation have begun to take the electoral process for granted, and as such, voter participation has declined signifcantly. Reverend Jackson spoke especially about how black people have only enjoyed the unrestricted right to vote for forty years, but already their participation has waned considerably. The same is true of American society as a whole, and in particular, the younger generation. From my own personal experience, as well as the survey I conducted, one of the main detractions for younger voters seems to be that they feel that politicians don't care about issues that affect them, and their votes do not matter. In a society where we are constantly bombarded with stories about government officials being on the payroll of large corporations, the entire idea of a representative democracy rings hollow. It often seems that these politicians are acting in their own interests, or on the behalf of special interest groups. Meanwhile, issues like education get pushed to the back burner, and subsequently, tuition rises at the University of Minnesota by 87% in four years. I believe that if the younger voters are educated about how politics affects them on a personal level, and that their vote can make a difference, we will see an upward trend in voting among the youth.

October 30, 2006

Political Ads

Lately, if you turn on you TV you will find new political commercials attacking other candidates and the ads are only getting worse. One topic that is separating the two parties is the war in Iraq. An article in the Star Tribune discusses that the Republicans are attacking the democrats about the war, but the democrats are sitting back, hoping that they will win because of the lack of support for the war. In those TV ads, there seems to be a lack of the whole truth. The American people are or have been misinformed about the war in Iraq and the war on terror. All these issues can be related to the discussion in last week’s classes. I feel that I have tried to follow the war on terror and in the short reading that we did for class, I learned more and more about the war on terror and the history surrounding those countries. I can not even imagine Americans that have no idea what is going on in the Middle East and how they can make an educated decision when voting. The political ads that are on TV are only short term solutions to winning an election, not giving the people valid and whole information about what America is fighting for.

Brazil's President Wins by Landslide

While browsing CNN.com, I came across an article that reports on the victory of the Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. This election turned out, according to the article, to be a “landslide? for the Brazilian President, because Lula supported his anti-poverty campaign. The tens of millions of Brazilians supported Lula’s winning because he made it possible to ease the tensions on the lower class while bringing economic succession for Brazil. Lula states, “We're going to continue governing Brazil for everyone, but we will continue to give more attention to the needy. The poor will have preference in our government…We want to make Brazil a more just and equal nation.?
Since most of the countries in Latin America perceive to have a poor economic stance, such that of Bolivia as we discussed in class, it is interesting to see how a country develops a plan to better itself. Being a country with one of the widest gaps between the rich and poor, this makes Lula’s victory even that much better. I agree with Lula when he speaks of the lower class and how the Brazilian government is going to pay better needs towards them. If you have the majority of the people, this being those of the lower class, as we see in most cases in Latin America, on your side, this will help you gain control over the government seek out the intended proposals. I find it interesting that Lula maintained and even enhance the Brazilian economy to a more new and equal level. The article says also, that a T-shirt was manufactured due to the promises of growth and the reduce of economic inequalities in Brazil to help the remembrance of the countries victory.
To continue reading, click, http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/10/30/lula.brazil.election.ap/index.html

Electronic Voting Machines - Beacon of Trust or Bust?

This year's elections will see a new change. That change will be a newly crafted system in which 90% of the country will be casting their votes on an electronic system. However, with this change come many unsettling questions that come in turn with the changing of times. Many people are scared that this system will be too corruptable and it will be "hacked" into changing to landscape of elections. I read an article in Time magazine recently that had a great article on this distrust of electronic voting systems and it's main arguments. The machines are truly revolutionary because they will eliminate most human-error but people are worried that the systems themselves can be penetrated by outsiders looking to skew data. The article shows three different ways the machines can be "hacked" into, the first of which is physically dismantling the machine and inserting a chip but people would easily be able to catch people doing this. Second is a standard memory-access card that would manipulate votes in favor of one way. There is confidence in the machines because they are not required to print a hard-copy transcript of all tallied votes in case their is suspicion that a machine has been tampered with. Many precautions are being made so that the new system does not replicate the 2000 presidential election fiasco.

I think that electronic voting systems only make sense. They eliminate the majority of human error in counting and can be calculated and programmed to count much more accurately than mulitple people. I also believe that this new technology (not necessarily new but more prevalent) will create a greater voter turnout. Technology has always generated an atmosphere and intrigue about many different things and I think these new machines are going to do just that. I do admit that it is sad that something this mundane will cause a greater voter turnout than previous years past but maybe this is what today's society needs, an influx of new technological advances (i.e. internet) to strike peoples intrigues. Now this doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the elected officials primarily but it will none-the-less create a greater civic participation that has been fledging in recent years.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1552054,00.html

Direct Democracy

Many government officials have always wondered if direct democracy has been a positive force in poorer countries. Direct Democracy is basically when the people overthrow the government and take factories and businesses into their own hands. Depending on the particular system, this assembly might pass executive motions (decrees), make law, elect and dismiss officials and conduct trials. When elected, these officials are bound to the will of the people. I recently read an article entitled “The Citizens of Porto Alegre,? and it talked about Brazil, and how poor it used to be, until the people overthrew the government.
The most interesting thing about this article was the fact that it was the Workers’ Party, which was started one year prior to the overthrow, took over governmental power. Through a period of experimentation, they soon found ways to efficiently run the government.
This reminded me of the video clips we watched about Argentina, although I’m still confused on how the direct democracy works, I think that any country should be skeptical of how it works, because there is no foundation, merely a group of people trying to make it work without many rules or regulations.

October 26, 2006

Vote For Douche Bag!

I cant remember the last time I saw a political campaign commercial that actually endorsed a candidate. Negative advertising has made me very uninterested in voting all together. So, instead of hearing lies about how great the candidates are, we are constantly fed lies about how shitty the candidates are. All the while falling from discussing the real issues like war, poverty, education and falling toward the hard issues that strike at the heart of Americans like, which candidate pees in the shower? Or who has the smaller penis?
Negative advertising has been a leading factor for the fall in political participation. If Putnam’s book had been written today, it would undoubtable contain an entire chapter on negative advertising and it’s affects on political participation and America’s disengagement from political matters all together.
I’ve also heard the argument that “I don’t vote because my vote doesn’t matter.? which is not true. In the 2004 elections, 122 million people voted, this means that each vote accounts for .0000008% of the final tally considered by the electoral college. I bet you feel important now. The upside to this fact is that the decline in voter turnout is increasing the influence of your vote.
Maybe if we want to increase voter turnout, we should focus on making it an enjoyable experience. Because the truth is that the problem of the decline of political participation lies not with the people, I lies with the politicians. No body wants to vote for a douche bag. So, find me a politician who is not a douche bag, and I’ll vote for them.

October 21, 2006

South Dakota and Referendums

According to most people, direct democracy would be too cumbersome and slow to be effective. But does allowing people to vote directly on issues result in higher voter turnout? This morning I was listening to NPR and eating my cheerios when I heard a story about South Dakota. This year the state of South Dakota has eleven referendums on its ballot. It is the second longest ballot in South Dakota’s history. According to the South Dakotan being interviewed, South Dakota was the first state to introduce referendums and typically has more referendums than any other state, because it is relatively easy to get an issue on the ballot because only 17,000 signatures are needed. He said that having issues on the ballot makes voter turnout higher because not of the rational feeling of it’s a persons civic duty to vote, but because one of the issues will “tug at their heart? so more people vote.

Continue reading "South Dakota and Referendums" »

October 13, 2006

Instant-Runoff Voting in Minneapolis

On October 10th The Star Tribune ran a very interesting story. On Election Day Minneapolis voters will have the opportunity to vote for an experimental trial of a new voting system called Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV). This is a fairly new system for United States and currently only in use in three U.S. cities including San Francisco, Cambridge, Mass., and Burlington, Vt. IRV would eliminate primary elections and have voters rank the order in which they would vote for all the candidates. If there is no first choice vote candidate with more than 50%, the percent of votes the candidates the lowest amount of votes received are then reallocated to other candidates who received the most until there is a majority winner. The idea behind IRV is that second or third choices will help other candidates to win the majority of the vote. So, if Candidate A receives 38%, Candidate B receives 18%, and Candidate C receives 44%, then Candidate B is eliminated and divided between Candidate A and C based on people’s second and third choices.

Supporters argue that IRV will help smaller party candidates contribute in an election as well as encourage people to vote on the issues that are important to them. Supporters also believe that by increasing issue voters they can eliminate people who vote only to vote against a specific candidate, which doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win. Opponents say IRV is an unnecessary change in a long standing tradition that would only confuse many voters such as senior citizens. They believe this change will discourage senior citizens from voting altogether. They also argue that long-shot candidates’ having an influence on the election is a bad idea. Opponents also argue that it will be very expensive to acquire the technology necessary for IRV. Many proponents for IRV such as Mayor R.T. Ryback, Minneapolis’ DFL party, the Minnesota Green Party, and the majority of the Minneapolis City Council have been lobbying for IRV in Minneapolis for the last year.

It will be interesting to see how the people of Minneapolis vote for the experimental change to Instant-Runoff Voting. Many supporters believe that it could potentially increase voter turnout because people will feel like their vote makes an impact regardless. Although many people believe that a voter should receive only one vote for one candidate this could potentially decrease the amount of small margin wins which leave ½ of voters happy and ½ very dissatisfied. This relates directly to what we were talking about in class because it is a technique to possibly increase voter turnout and participation. If people feel like they can vote for the candidate and issues they really want to see recognized they may be more apt to participate.

October 3, 2006

When social capital goes bad

Today I was listening to NPR on my way home and they had a segment about Florida Congressmen Mark Foley. It had recently been discovered that he had been having sexually explicit instant messaging chats with teenage pages that worked in the house of representatives. Foley is part of the republican party and allegedly many of the high-ranking republican officials have known about the exchanges for a year. Foley resigned from his position as congressman on Sept. 29 and the republicans that are thought to have known about this are being urged by a number of other politicians to follow suit.
To me this demonstrates social capital working in a negative way, people working together against a certain party, or if not directly against it, not in a preventative or protective way against a negative force. Although this goes against what Putnam states, if the party officials besides Foley himself knew of these conversations, they were using their social capital to keep it “under wraps? so as not to lose one of their own party and put themselves at a disadvantage, regardless of the danger they may be allowing towards children working for them.
After resigning from his position, Foley also checked himself into a rehab facility for alcoholism. Although this a very serious and sad disease, could this be a ploy that Foley is using to prey on the social capital that comes from rehab groups such as AA, etc.? Unfortunate as that may be, social capital that stems from these groups is one of the more “popular? forms of social capital in recent years, and this could simply be a plan to pray on the more sympathetic bonds formed from these groups.

October 2, 2006

Religion and Civic Participation

A critique of Putnam's work ofen revolves around his failure to compare the findings he concluded to in comparison to oother countries. As I read Bowling Alone, I began to criticize his findings through the scope of experience studying abroad in another country. In the chapter of Bowling Alone dedicated to religion, Putnam draws connections between church attendence and civic participation. Putnam suggests that in America, when church attendence increases, civic partificpation decreases. I am suggesting that the connection between church identification and civic participation relates to the degree to which religion is a factor in discriminating against the rights that should be provided for by a republican government. In order to show that the connotations of religion matter in determining civic participation, I will draw on my experiences studying abroad in the Republic of Ireland and a week long trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
First, religion in the Republic of Ireland is inherently different from the United States or Northern Ireland because the population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. In contrast Belfast, Northern Ireland has a roughly equal number of Catholic and Protestant residents. Throughout the Troubles, a sixty yesr long civil war over the rights of Catholics in Northern Ireland, churches were a unifying force for either Catholic or Protestant citizens in Northern Ireland. Much like the civil rights movements of the 1960's, these churches severed as an institution to organize citizens and create a platform on which they could fight for their cause. Today, leaders of prominent political parties strongly identify with their church when running for office and when voting on issues or creating policy. This is largely due to the degree to which religion is part of your identity. Citizens in Northern Ireland identify themeselves as Catholic or Portestant, these identifications are a strong determining factor on the way they are treated.
On the contrary, churches in the Republic of Ireland do not serve the same function as in Northern Ireland. Although churches are a cornerstone of both small villages and big cities, churches tend to offer religious instruction and social networking instead of political participation. Although there is disagreement among citizens in the Republic of Ireland, none of it steams from a difference in religion because Catholicism is an overwhelming majority. A citizen in the Repubic of Ireland does not vote on an issue because of Catholicism, nor are they discriminated against because of Catholicism. However, church attendance in the Republic of Ireland is quite high, it was in my experience that far more people went to church then my experiences in America. Additionally, civic participation by way of voting was an impressive percentage.
My response to Putnam's suggestion that civic participation and church attendence enjoy a casual relationship is that they enjoy a coorelation rather then a causation. In Northern Ireland, church attendence causes civic participation because politics inherently steams from religion. In the Republic of Ireland, church attendence causes religious teachings and social networks but not politics because a cleavage exists between politics and religion. In conclusion, religious participation can lead to civic participation when religion and civics are bound by policy.

September 27, 2006

The Million Man March

On October 16, 1995, the Million Man March took place in Washington, DC. This march of protest was carried out by the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The Million Man March was a social movement that set out to include efforts to register African Americans to vote in US elections and to increase black involvement in volunteering and community activities. Speakers also criticized the Republicans after the 1994 congressional elections and they talked about programs such as welfare, Medicaid, housing programs, student aid programs and education programs. Months after this march of protest, one and a half million Black men registered to vote according to the voter registration statistics. This shows us how a group of people set out to accomplish certain goals and they are able to do so as a group.http://http://www3.cnn.com/US/9510/megamarch/march.html

Continue reading "The Million Man March" »

September 24, 2006

Have Republicans Lost the "Value Voters"?

On Sunday Sept. 24th the Star Tribune ran a story on the upcoming elections. The article focused mainly on the “value voters,? people who vote for candidates solely based on value issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty, and how their support for the conservative party may be waning. “Value Voters? describe themselves as feeling less than satisfied with their current representatives and the lack of attention given to value issues. Recent rallies have been focused on regaining their support and vote. The 2004 elections saw a huge boom in “value voters? but with other issues like the war in Iraq and the declining economy there has been very little focus on the moral issues. The national group Focus on the Family has been trying to regain this support with campaigns to “get church voters to the polls? and Chairman James Dobson will be in the cities next week to give his speech rally.

I found this article interesting because it directly related to a topic discussed by Putnam. In Bowling Alone, Putnam argues that even as the general trend of social capital and civic participation in the U.S. is very low there are specific groups that are still likely to be more consistent in voter turnout. Churchgoers are one group in specific that are said to be more likely to vote, however, this group is being targeted directly by the conservatives for the upcoming elections. These campaigns are trying to get these “value voters? interested and participating again like they were in 2004 but for some it may already be too little too late. I think it will be extremely interesting to see if these voters will make as much of an impact as they did in the 2004 elections, or if they really do feel forgotten and hopeless. With the war and economy dominating the forefront of discussions and public attention the conservatives could potentially lose the support of their one time guaranteed supporters.

September 13, 2006

Politics from above or below?

I overheard a conversation recently between two people about Keith Ellison. This was before the primaries and the discussion was about some slip-ups with the law that Ellison had. Among a few of these there were instances of tardiness to important events and unpaid parking tickets. Because only one of these is against the law, I'll keep my question and comments to that subject. This lead me to think that, if I considered Ellison the best candidate for the job, should I be concerned about his misgivings, petty as they may be, with the law.

The arguements that this brings up are: Is it the governments most basic job to crack down on these sort of petty crimes and therefore he should be suspended from any post he would be elected to until he has made the appropriate reperations? Or if he is the best candidate, should we be bothered by the lack of enforcement of these petty misgivings? To this I reply that in the best interest of the act of democracy, I would vote for him. The reasons behind this are that if I truly believe him to be the best candidate to represent myself, I would not give that representation up for a few petty "crimes" that can easily and quickly be fixed if they were actually to be enforced.

Hilary Clinton for President?

In a recent interview with ABC News reporter Cynthia McFadden, Sen. Rodham Clinton responded “I haven’t made a decision about it,? when asked about potentially running for Presidency in 2008. American politics have become much more accepting of new ideas in recent years, and although being a female candidate for a major political party is unprecedented, a woman president is no longer an outlandish thought. This shows a more liberal shift in American politics and society as a whole. It has taken America roughly 217 years (almost 55 elections) to even have a female candidate, let alone one with an actual chance of winning. This shows huge strides in gender equality for a country run entirely by white males since birth. This leads many to ask if this country is really ready for a female President. The fact that Clinton is a woman may prove too detrimental to her campaign regardless of her platforms. It is almost certain that the war in Iraq will still be a major issue in 2008, and as stereotypical as it may seem, many people view a woman to be unfit for a job dealing with war and military defense. If the voters of this country are willing to accept a woman being capable of handling military situations, this country is ready for a woman president.

Although proving that females are capable of holding such a position of power will be an issue in Clinton’s campaign, I believe the real problem she will face will be to please both sides of the American public. How does Clinton maintain the support of her already loyal democratic followers while appealing to a more conservative side as well? Her pro-war opinions, although pleasing to the more conservative bunch, have already created quite a stir among the democrats. If Clinton chooses to run she will be putting herself in a position that could potentially gain conservative support while losing some of the democratic support or vice versa. Clinton is known for being a very strong and empowered woman but it is hard to predict the outcome if she were to run for President. Putnam discusses how civic participation has decreased and voter turnout for elections in the US is very poor but having a female candidate could possibly spark a much needed change in participation. Some people may vote for Clinton because she is a woman,and they feel the need to support a woman candidate. On the other hand, more people may vote for other candidates because she is a woman and they want to make sure she doesn't win. The public, of all political affiliations will be anxiously awaiting her decision and then we’ll see how much of a liberal change American politics has actually experienced.

August 31, 2006

The Strib's myVote

One of the issues we'll be discussing quite a bit is the impact of the internet - and technology generally - on politics. We'll encounter some skeptical takes on whether or not the internet is good for democracy, but here's an example of where the internet can undoubtedly help: the Star Tribune's myVote website. Enter in your zip code and then street address and you're directed to information about all the races you can vote in as well as information on how to get to your polling location.

One of the stranger facts about voting behavior is that people invest enormous amounts of time and energy into reading up on national and state races, where their vote is only one out of millions, yet tend to entirely ignore the local races in their communities where a handful of votes really can make a huge difference. The Star Tribune has a webpage for just about every candidate for just about every position, and from the strib's bio page you will frequently find a link to each candidates personal website as well. So even if you've not been aware of who is running for what, you can spend a little bit of time before you head to the polls reading up on the local races and making an informed decision rather than just picking a candidate based on who had the prettiest lawn signs or simply ignoring these races altogether.

Bush speeches "not political"?

This week, Bush will begin a series of speeches on the war in Iraq. On Wednesday, he had this to say about the upcoming speeches:

``They're not political speeches,'' Bush said Wednesday when asked if they might have an impact on the congressional elections just over two months away. ``They're speeches about the future of this country, and they're speeches to make it clear that if we retreat before the job is done, this nation would become even more in jeopardy. These are important times, and I seriously hope people wouldn't politicize these issues that I'm going to talk about.''

Bush uses "political" in an interesting manner here, a way we commonly hear politicians of all stripes use it. What is Bush trying to communicate? Presumably that he is "just getting things done," or "just doing his job" for the country and not to advance his own political agenda. To emphasize how "not political" his speeches are, he says they are "speeches about the future of this country." This is a good example of how politics can mean very different things to different people. If politics is defined as the realm of public decision making, then how can discussion of "the future of the country" not be political? And if that's the defintion of politics, then isn't being political a good thing in a democracy? However, given the more sinister definition of politics (where politics equals self-serving power grabs), it's a good rhetorical strategy to cast yourself as being "not political." For one thing, as Bush immediately shows, it entails your critics are "politicizing" the issue by criticizing you, or at the very least puts the burden on them to demonstrate that they're not "being political" and have purely altruistic motives. As Eliasoph points out, this split in how people define politics can make it difficult to discuss public issues.