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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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Two Congresses, Two Branches, Two Chambers, Two Parties, Four Postures

More on the Two Congresses


Matt Vasilogambros writes at National Journal:
On a re­cent Fri­day af­ter­noon, as she was leav­ing the Hill for the week­end, a con­gres­sion­al aide sud­denly re­membered that her park­ing pass would ex­pire be­fore she came to work the next Monday. She had pro­cras­tin­ated about ask­ing her boss to sign for a new one, and now he’d flown home for the week­end. So, after only a mo­ment’s hes­it­a­tion, she signed his name to the form her­self. Or tried to.
”It ended up look­ing like ab­so­lute crap,” she says. “I used the wrong-colored pen. I used a red pen; we’re sup­posed to use a blue pen. So I had to do the whole thing over.”
You might think this would raise sus­pi­cions -- not only for­ging a mem­ber’s sig­na­ture on a fed­er­al doc­u­ment but also botch­ing the job so badly that you have to try again. But nobody on Cap­it­ol Hill bats an eye at staffers sign­ing for their bosses; it’s part of the daily routine, and, ac­cord­ing to the House and Sen­ate Eth­ics com­mit­tees, there are no rules pro­hib­it­ing it. Which comes in handy, for staffers and mem­bers alike, be­cause the elec­ted of­fi­cials’ sig­na­tures are re­quired on everything from “Dear Col­league” let­ters to tech-equip­ment re­quests. (The idea is that mem­bers are held ac­count­able for every ac­tion taken by their aides.) And with law­makers dash­ing from caucus meet­ings to com­mit­tee hear­ings to floor votes to fun­drais­ing call rooms, they’d be hard-pressed to af­fix their John Han­cocks to every doc­u­ment that hits their desks -- or their staffers’ desks.

Two Branches
Two Chambers

A second look at Federalist 51:
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.


The average size of a congressional  district based on the 2010 Census  apportionment population will be  710,767, more than triple the average  district size of 210,328 based on the  1910 Census apportionment, and 63,815  more than the average size based on  Census 2000 (646,952). Based on the  2010 Census apportionment, the state  with the largest average district size will  be Montana (994,416), and the state with  the smallest average district size will be  Rhode Island (527,624).

Two Parties, Four Postures

Four Strategic Postures Since 2000 (House, by election year)

                                                Majority                      Minority

            Pres Party                    Dems 08                      GOP 06
                                                GOP 00, 02, 04           Dem 10,12,14
            Out Party                    GOP 10,12,14             GOP 08
                                                Dem 06                       Dem 00, 02,04

First Assignment, Spring 2016

Pick one:
  • Answer one of the "questions for discussion" on page 72-73 of Haskell.
  • Choose either Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid.  How well did he perform as a leader in 2015? Compare and contrast his political environment with that facing LBJ in the 1950s. 
  • Pick any nonincumbent candidate for the House or Senate in 2014 or 2015.  Applying Herrnson's analysis of "strategic politicians" (see chapter 2), explain why this candidate ran. Under the circumstances, was it a wise decision?
Essays should reflect an understanding of class readings and discussions. Many resources, including CQ Weekly and Politics in America are at Honnold Library/Databases/CQ Library. see The Almanac of American Politics either in hardcopy at Honnold or via the library website. Consult other sources as well. See: http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/pages/faculty/JPitney/congress.html

The specifications:
  • Essays should be typed (12-point), double-spaced, and no more than four pages long. I will not read past the fourth page. 
  • Cite your sources. Please use endnotes in the format of Chicago Manual of Style.  Endnotes do not count against the page limit. Please do not use footnotes, which take up too much page space.
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. Return essays to the Sakai dropbox for this class by 11:59 PM, Friday, February 12. Papers will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a full letter grade after that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Visions of matriarchy

Related to our conversation Monday on congressional demographics, here's a cool clip from Roll Call -- following the East Coast blizzard, only women showed up to work in the Senate one day!

"I might also note just for a little historical perspective that as we convene this morning, you look around the chamber, and the presiding officer is female. All of our parliamentarians are female. Our floor managers are female. All of our pages are female. Now, this was not orchestrated in any way, shape, or form; we came in this morning, looked around, and thought, something is different this morning. Different in a good way, I might add. But something is genuinely different, and I think it's genuinely fabulous." Same here, Sen. Murkowski!

"Women Take Over Senate After Blizzard"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Apostrophe Now

National Review is a failing publication that has lost it's way. It's circulation is way down w its influence being at an all time low. Sad!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016