I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Parties and Leaders: A First Cut

Senate Republicans Make a Move on Keystone XL

An interesting article in Politico today talked about a proposed bill in the Senate that would have Congress seize the power to approve the Keystone XL pipeline under the Commerce Clause from the White House. Particularly relevant in light of last week's discussion about constitutional conflicts between Congress and the president.

Divided Government

On pg. 194 of "Leadership and Influence..." the fact that LBJ was acting within a divided government (Republican President and Democratic Senate Majority) is seen as a positive because it "freed [him] of the obligation to shepherd a White House" agenda through the Senate. Is a divided government (either House/Executive or Senate/Executive) seen in the same light today?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Strunk and White Rap

The Elements of Style from Jake Heller on Vimeo.

Filibuster Reform

On page 195 of the Evans & Novak reading there is a reference to "liberal battle plans to reform Rule XXII (the filibuster rule)" in January, 1957. Filibuster reform as an issue has garnered public attention in recent years as use of the filibuster has increased with each Congress, but to what extent has the filibuster been a source of controversy in past decades? What were these liberal reformers trying to accomplish, and why?

Newt's Rise in the House

Here is an excerpt from the article in The New York Times that I mentioned on Wednesday:

Mr. Gingrich’s arrival in Congress coincided with the rise of C-Span, the cable channel that televised House proceedings, and he figured out early on how to combine his gift for oratory with the power of the camera. Night after night, he would lambaste Democrats, speaking in an empty House chamber after the day’s legislative business was done. Mr. Gingrich would needle Democrats, challenging them to come forward and defend themselves. No one did, because no one was there.

Things came to a head in May 1984, on a day when the chamber was full. Mr. Gingrich had been pounding a group of Democrats over a letter they had written to Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan leader, accusing them of spreading “communist propaganda.” Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., the House speaker, let loose.

“You deliberately stood in that well before an empty House, and challenged these people, and challenged their Americanism,” he roared, wagging his forefinger at Mr. Gingrich, “and it’s the lowest thing I’ve ever seen in my 32 years in Congress.”

It was a rare breach of decorum; Mr. Gingrich had gotten the better of Mr. O’Neill. House rules forbid personal insults, so Mr. O’Neill’s words were “taken down”— stricken from the record, a rare rebuke and a turning point, many here say, in relations between Republicans and Democrats.

“That was the moment he became a real star,” said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor at Claremont McKenna College, who has written extensively about Mr. Gingrich and polarization in Congress. “It was David taking on Goliath.”

Some Republicans were uneasy. Among them was Trent Lott of Mississippi, then the Republican whip. Mr. Lott had called for Mr. O’Neill’s remarks to be stricken. Even so, he says he was uncomfortable with Mr. Gingrich’s take-no-prisoners rhetorical style.

“Newt was willing to tear up the system to get the majority,” Mr. Lott, who supports Mitt Romney, said in an interview last year, before Mr. Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls. “It got to be a really negative pit over there, but that was probably the beginnings of the Republicans being able to take control.”    

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Congress and President, Senate and House


But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions.

A Senate session.

A House session:

One major difference between the chambers is that few House members run for president, and seldom get far when they do (see Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich). But a fairly large fraction of senators have gone for the White House.
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 1996, 2000
  • Tom Harkin (D-IA) 1992
  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 2000
  • John Kerry (D-MA) 2004
  • Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) 2004
  • Richard Lugar (R-IN) 1996
  • John McCain (R-AZ) 2000, 2008
  • And of course rememember President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton.

First Essay Assignment

Choose one:

  1. Pick any House seat that changed party hands in 2010. Explain the outcome, with reference to candidates, the district’s characteristics, and the larger political climate.  Is the same party likely to hold the seat in 2012?
  2. Pick a competitive 2012 Senate race.  Why is it competitive?  Explain who will win and why.  In your answer, consider state politics, national trends, and the characteristics of the candidates.
  3. Compare and contrast John Boehner’s first year as speaker with Newt Gingrich’s.  What did he seem to learn from Gingrich’s experience?  In your answer, consider each speaker’s strategic context, including the partisan makeup of the two chambers and the presidency, as well as the internal dynamics of the GOP Conference.
  4. If you have access to video equipment, make a campaign ad for or against someone running for the House or Senate in 2012.   Post it on YouTube, then write a three-page essay explaining the strategic and tactical purpose of the ad.  That is, how would you expect it to influence votes in this constituency?
Essays should reflect an understanding of class readings and discussions. Many resources, including CQ Weekly and Politics in America are at  http://library.cqpress.com.  Also go to the library and see The Almanac of American Politics.  You should check other sources as well. See:

  • Essays should be typed, stapled, double-spaced, and no more than three pages long.  I will not read past the third page.  
  • Put your name on a cover sheet.  Do not identify yourself on the text pages.  
  • Cite your sources.  You may use either endnotes or parenthetical references to a bibliography.  In either case, put your documentation in a standard format (e.g., Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style).  
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation.  Errors will count against yo
Return essays by the start of class, Wednesday, February 8.  Papers will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a full letter grade after that.

Simulation and the State of the Union

Last night, the president mentioned the issues that we will handle in the simulation:
  • "It's not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated."
  • "That’s why, working with our military leaders, I’ve proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I’ve already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber-threats."
  • "So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. (Applause.) Higher education can’t be a luxury -– it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012