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Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

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<strong>Chapter</strong><br />

14<br />

Voting,<br />

Campaigns,<br />

and Elections<br />

in How a Campaign Gets Out Its Vote<br />

When Election Day 2012 rolled around, both major party campaigns were feeling<br />

optimistic.<br />

The Obama campaign had been quietly confident for months. Its polls and most of<br />

the public polls showed a small but steady lead for the president, and the forecasting<br />

models that averaged all the polls together and added economic variables showed<br />

a good chance for an Obama win. The campaign was especially confident about its<br />

ground game—its ability to mobilize supporters and get out the vote. For over a<br />

year the campaign had been working on a system that aggregated all the data it had<br />

on potential voters, and it had constructed a massive electronic system for microtargeting<br />

voters, directing ads to them, soliciting money from them, and getting<br />

them to vote. The campaign had been working the early voting states, and the totals<br />

of the votes the campaign saw there reassured it that its statistical models of which<br />

voters would actually turn out on Election Day were sound.<br />

But the members of the Romney campaign were equally confident. They<br />

dismissed polls showing a lead for Obama, claiming that the public polls were<br />

overestimating the numbers of Democrats who would show up on Election<br />

Day. Traditionally Democratic voters are younger than the Republican base and<br />

less white; young people and minorities tend not to vote at the rates that the<br />

Republicans’ older and whiter base does. Consequently, the Romney campaign<br />

based its own polls on a different turnout model, reducing the percentage of<br />

Democratic voters expected to vote. Its polls found growing momentum for<br />

Romney because he was supported by Republicans as well as a majority of voters<br />

identifying as independents. The campaign felt good about its get-out-the-vote<br />

(GOTV) effort, too; it had a hugely expensive and technologically advanced system<br />

that would channel information about who voted on Election Day from volunteers<br />

on the ground, via their cell phones, to campaign headquarters in Boston. Armed<br />

CHAPTER OUTLINE<br />

Voting in a Democratic Society<br />

The Founders’ Intentions<br />

The Functions of Elections<br />

Exercising the Right to Vote in America<br />

Who Votes and Who Doesn’t<br />

Why Americans Don’t Vote<br />

Does Nonvoting Matter<br />

How the Voter Decides<br />

Partisanship and Social Group Membership<br />

Gender, Race, and Ethnicity<br />

Issues and Policy<br />

The Candidates<br />

Presidential Campaigns<br />

Getting Nominated<br />

The Convention<br />

The General Election Campaign<br />

Interpreting Elections<br />

The Citizens and Elections<br />

A Fourth Model<br />

Do Elections Make a Difference<br />

Let’s Revisit: What’s at Stake . . .<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


Nerd Cave<br />

Sequestered in a back room they dubbed the “Cave” in President Obama’s campaign<br />

headquarters in Chicago, the young number crunchers took voter data gathering and analysis<br />

to a new level and reset the standard for future campaigns. The chief analytics officer said of his<br />

fellow workers, “We’re kind of a weird bunch of kids. I haven’t seen the sun for a while.”<br />

with that information, volunteers could<br />

be dispatched to call or encourage the<br />

nonvoters to get to the polls in the<br />

swing states before they closed.<br />

The Romney campaign had given<br />

interviews the day before Election Day,<br />

touting the system that it called the<br />

Orca Project (because the Orca whale is<br />

the natural predator of the Narwhal, the<br />

name for the Obama data management<br />

system). Romney’s communications<br />

director said, “At 5 o’clock when the exit<br />

polls come out, we won’t pay attention<br />

to that. We will have had much more<br />

scientific information just based on<br />

the political operation we have set<br />

up.” 1 While the Romney campaign<br />

was talking up the virtues of Orca, the<br />

Obama campaign was much more silent<br />

about Narwhal, and about the program<br />

called Gordon, which was actually more<br />

comparable to Orca. Still, the Obama<br />

people insisted that they were going to<br />

win, and so did the Romney people.<br />

What happened Well of course, the<br />

president of the United States is still<br />

Barack Obama, so obviously he won.<br />

But the news took a while to sink in<br />

at the Romney campaign gathering at<br />

the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.<br />

An adviser for the campaign said that<br />

Mitt Romney was “shell-shocked”<br />

at the results. He delayed making<br />

a concession speech to President<br />

Obama, even after all the networks<br />

had called the election. The campaign<br />

had ordered an eight-minute fireworks<br />

display to celebrate its victory, and<br />

Romney had prepared a victory speech<br />

but no concession speech (candidates<br />

generally prepare both, just in case<br />

either outcome occurs). Another adviser<br />

said, “There is nothing worse than when<br />

you think you are going to win, and you<br />

don’t. It was like a sucker punch.” 2<br />

At Obama’s post-election gathering in<br />

Chicago’s McCormick Place, the mood<br />

was considerably better. There were<br />

no fireworks, but Obama, who had<br />

prepared two speeches, got to give<br />

the victory version. Behind the scenes<br />

there was a less visible but no less<br />

heartfelt celebration, and the in-house<br />

technical people who had been hired<br />

over a year before to design Narwhal<br />

and Gordon (and several other<br />

systems) heaved a sigh of relief.<br />

“I think the Republicans f**ked up in<br />

the hubris department,” said Harper<br />

Reed, the chief technology officer of<br />

the Obama campaign. “I know we had<br />

the best technology team I’ve ever<br />

worked with, but we didn’t know if it<br />

would work. I was incredibly confident<br />

it would work. I was betting a lot on<br />

it. We had time. We had resources.<br />

We had done what we thought would<br />

work, and it still could have broken.<br />

Something could have happened.” 3<br />

And, in fact, for the Republicans,<br />

something did happen. On the day of<br />

the election, with more than 30,000<br />

volunteers ready to gather information<br />

on who had voted and send it back<br />

to the campaign electronically, Orca<br />

crashed. The system had not been<br />

tried out in the field until that day;<br />

it hadn’t been checked for bugs, and<br />

there had been no dry run.<br />

Said one Romney volunteer who<br />

repeatedly tried to access the system<br />

all day on November 6:<br />

So, the end result was that<br />

30,000+ of the most active<br />

and fired-up volunteers were<br />

wandering around confused<br />

and frustrated when they<br />

could have been doing<br />

anything else to help. Like<br />

driving people to the polls,<br />

phone-banking, walking doorto-door,<br />

etc. We lost by fairly<br />

small margins in Florida,<br />

Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado. If<br />

this had worked, could it have<br />

closed the gap I sure hope<br />

not, for my sanity’s sake. 4<br />

The Romney camp was reduced to<br />

following CNN and calling county election<br />

offices for its turnout information, and<br />

without detailed information, was<br />

unable to direct its volunteers to get out<br />

their votes. Still, the campaign thought it<br />

was winning. It was only as the reports<br />

510 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


indicated that turnout was high in areas<br />

that favored Obama that the campaign<br />

realized that its own turnout model<br />

had been flawed. The campaign had<br />

counted on turnout looking like it had<br />

in 2004, when participation of young<br />

people and minorities had not been high.<br />

Instead, it was looking more like 2008.<br />

Although apparently fewer voters overall<br />

had turned out, the demographic profile<br />

of the electorate looked like 2008,<br />

except that the percentage of young<br />

voters and minorities was slightly<br />

higher. While the Romney get-out-thevote<br />

effort was not stellar, it looked<br />

like the Obama effort was.<br />

In fact, the Obama team had prepared<br />

for the catastrophe that had befallen<br />

the Romney system. They had gamed<br />

out the system repeatedly, simulating<br />

every kind of crash and failure they<br />

could think of. The massive amounts<br />

of data that had been collected were<br />

analyzed by number crunchers sitting<br />

in a Chicago room known as the<br />

“Cave,” who used the data to construct<br />

a model that predicted turnout all over<br />

the nation. Volunteers had converged<br />

on the swing states from around the<br />

country, canvassing neighborhoods,<br />

ready to follow up with potential voters<br />

who had not voted early or gotten to<br />

the polls on Election Day. Thanks to<br />

the data, the campaign knew exactly<br />

where those voters were.<br />

Wrote one Obama volunteer from<br />

Idaho who had relocated to the swing<br />

state of Ohio for the four weeks<br />

preceding the election,<br />

For the last four days of the<br />

election, we helped manage a<br />

staging location for GOTV in<br />

one ward of a city in the<br />

eastern suburbs of Cleveland.<br />

I imagine that the campaign<br />

will never release the total<br />

number of people who worked<br />

or volunteered in Ohio; they<br />

might not even know. But<br />

extrapolating from our<br />

experience, I estimate that<br />

there might have been close<br />

to 50,000 people on the<br />

ground in one way or another<br />

during GOTV in Ohio,<br />

including 700 lawyers, 300 in<br />

the Cleveland area alone,<br />

protecting our vote. 5<br />

As the calendar ticked over to<br />

November 6, the tiny town of Dixville<br />

Notch, New Hampshire, which always<br />

votes at midnight, cast half of its<br />

votes (five) for the president and half<br />

for Romney. The kids in the Cave were<br />

thrilled. Their forecast model had<br />

predicted exactly that result, and as the<br />

day progressed, other turnout figures<br />

confirmed their model’s forecast as<br />

well. As they had expected, Obama<br />

ended up winning handily; the turnout<br />

machinery had done its work well.<br />

Once upon a time, getting out the vote<br />

meant making phone calls, knocking<br />

on doors, and hoping for the best.<br />

Systems didn’t crash on Election<br />

Day because there were no systems.<br />

Clearly, the effort has gotten far more<br />

sophisticated. Technology has changed<br />

the playing field. Just what is at stake<br />

in how a campaign mobilizes its<br />

supporters and gets out the vote •<br />

The mechanism that connects citizens with their governments, by which they signify<br />

their consent and through which they accomplish peaceful change, is elections.<br />

Although we pride ourselves on our democratic<br />

government, Americans seem to have a love-hate<br />

relationship with the idea of campaigns and voting. On<br />

the one hand, many citizens believe that elections do not<br />

accomplish anything, that elected officials ignore the wishes<br />

of the people, and that government is run for the interests of<br />

the elite rather than the many. Voters in 2008 were unusually<br />

motivated, with a turnout rate of higher than 60 percent,<br />

but typically only about half of the eligible electorate votes.<br />

On the other hand, when it is necessary to choose a leader,<br />

whether the captain of a football team, the president of a<br />

dorm, or a local precinct chairperson, the first instinct of most<br />

Americans is to call an election. Even though there are other<br />

ways to choose leaders—picking the oldest, the wisest, or the<br />

strongest; holding a lottery; or asking for volunteers—Americans<br />

almost always prefer an election. We elect over half a million<br />

public officials in America. 6 This means we have a lot of<br />

elections—more elections more often for more officials than<br />

in any other democracy.<br />

In this chapter we examine the complicated place of<br />

elections in American politics and American culture. You will<br />

learn about<br />

••<br />

what the founders were thinking when they<br />

established a role for elections, and the potential<br />

roles that elections can play in a democracy<br />

••<br />

Americans’ ambivalence about the vote and the reasons<br />

that only about half of the citizenry even bother to<br />

exercise what is supposed to be a precious right<br />

Elected Dog-Catcher<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

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14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections 511


••<br />

how voters go about making decisions, and how<br />

this in turn influences the character of presidential<br />

elections<br />

••<br />

the organizational and strategic aspects of running<br />

for the presidency<br />

••<br />

what elections mean for citizens<br />

Voting in a<br />

Democratic Society<br />

A nonviolent means for political change<br />

Up until the last couple hundred years, it was virtually<br />

unthinkable that the average citizen could or should have any<br />

say in who would govern. Rather, leaders were chosen by<br />

birth, by the church, by military might, by the current leaders,<br />

but not by the mass public. Real political change, when it<br />

occurred, was usually ushered in with violence and bloodshed.<br />

Today, global commitment to democracy is on the rise.<br />

Americans and, increasingly, other citizens around the world<br />

believe that government with the consent of the governed is<br />

superior to government imposed on unwilling subjects and that<br />

political change is best accomplished through the ballot box<br />

rather than on the battlefield or in the streets. The mechanism<br />

that connects citizens with their governments, by which they<br />

signify their consent and through which they accomplish<br />

peaceful change, is elections. Looked at from this perspective,<br />

elections are an amazing innovation—they provide a method<br />

for the peaceful transfer of power. Quite radical political changes<br />

can take place without blood being shed, an accomplishment<br />

that would confound most of our political ancestors.<br />

As we saw in <strong>Chapter</strong> 1, however, proponents of<br />

democracy can have very different ideas about how much<br />

power citizens should exercise over government. Elite<br />

theorists believe that citizens should confine their role to<br />

choosing among competing elites; pluralists think citizens<br />

should join groups that fight for their interests in government<br />

on their behalf; and participatory democrats call for more<br />

active and direct citizen involvement in politics. Each of these<br />

views has consequences for how elections should be held.<br />

How many officials should be chosen by the people How<br />

often should elections be held Should people choose officials<br />

directly, or through representatives whom they elect How<br />

accountable should officials be to the people who elect them<br />

We have already seen, in <strong>Chapter</strong> 11, that though<br />

Americans hardly resemble the informed, active citizens<br />

prescribed by democratic theory, that does not mean they are<br />

A Hard-Won Right<br />

Democracy is nothing if it is not about citizens choosing their leaders. In 1966 black voters in Peachtree, Alabama, lined up to vote for the first time<br />

since passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.<br />

512 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


unqualified to exercise political power. At the end of this<br />

chapter, when we have a clearer understanding of the way<br />

that elections work in America, we will return to the<br />

question of how much power citizens should have and what<br />

different answers to this question mean for our thinking<br />

about elections. We begin our study of elections, however, by<br />

examining the functions that they can perform in democratic<br />

government. First we look at the very limited role that the<br />

founders had in mind for popular elections when they<br />

designed the American Constitution, and then we evaluate<br />

the claims of democratic theorists more generally.<br />

The Founders’ Intentions<br />

The Constitution reflects the founding fathers’ fears that<br />

people could not reliably exercise wise and considered<br />

judgment about politics. Consequently the founders built<br />

a remarkable layer of insulation between the national<br />

government and the will of the people. The president was<br />

to be elected not directly by the people but by an electoral<br />

college, which was expected to be a group of wiser-thanaverage<br />

men who would use prudent judgment. In fact, only<br />

the House of Representatives, one-half of one-third of the<br />

government, was to be popularly elected. The Senate and<br />

the executive and judicial branches were to be selected by<br />

different types of political elites who could easily check any<br />

moves that might arise from the whims of the masses. In the<br />

founders’ view, the government needed the support of the<br />

masses, but it could not afford to be led by what they saw as<br />

the public’s shortsighted and easily misguided judgment.<br />

The Functions of Elections<br />

Despite the founders’ reluctance to entrust much political<br />

power to American citizens, we have since altered our<br />

method of electing senators to make these elections direct,<br />

and the Electoral College, as we shall see, almost always<br />

endorses the popular vote for president. As we said in the<br />

introduction to this chapter, elections have become a central<br />

part of American life, even if our participation in them is<br />

somewhat uneven. Theorists claim that elections fulfill a<br />

variety of functions in modern democratic life: selecting<br />

leaders, giving direction to policy, developing citizenship,<br />

informing the public, containing conflict, and legitimizing<br />

and stabilizing the system. Here we examine and evaluate<br />

how well elections fill some of those functions.<br />

Selection of Leaders<br />

Like our founders, many philosophers and astute political<br />

observers have had doubts about whether elections are the best<br />

way to choose wise and capable leaders. Philosophers from<br />

Plato to John Stuart Mill have expressed doubts about citizen<br />

capability, arguing that you cannot trust the average citizen<br />

to make wise choices in Thinking Outside the Box<br />

the voting booth. 7 More<br />

recent critics also focus<br />

on the other side of the to choose our leaders<br />

equation, claiming that democratic elections often fail to<br />

produce the best leaders because the electoral process scares<br />

off some of the most capable candidates. Running for office<br />

is a hard, expensive, and bruising enterprise. Many qualified<br />

people are put off by the process, though they might be able<br />

to do an excellent job and have much to offer through public<br />

service. The simple truth is that elections ensure only that the<br />

leader chosen is the most popular on the ballot. There is no<br />

guarantee that the best candidate will run, or that the people<br />

will choose the wisest, most honest, or most capable leader<br />

from the possible candidates.<br />

Are elections the best way<br />

Policy Direction<br />

Democracy and elections are only partially about choosing<br />

able leadership. The fears of the founders notwithstanding,<br />

today we also expect that the citizenry will have a large<br />

voice in what the government actually does. Competitive<br />

elections are intended in part to keep leaders responsive to<br />

the concerns of the governed, since they can be voted out of<br />

office if voters are displeased.<br />

The policy impact of elections, however, is indirect. For<br />

instance, at the national level, we elect individuals, but we do<br />

not vote on policies. Although citizens in about half the states<br />

can make policy directly through initiatives and referenda, the<br />

founders left no such option at the national level. Rather, they<br />

provided us with a complicated system in which power is<br />

divided and checked. Those who stand for election have<br />

different constituencies and different terms of office. Thus the<br />

different parts of the national government respond to different<br />

publics at different times. The voice of the people is muted and<br />

modulated. At times, however, especially when there is a change<br />

in the party that controls the government, elections do produce<br />

rather marked shifts in public policy. 8 The New Deal of the<br />

1930s is an excellent case in point. The election of a Democratic<br />

president and Congress allowed a sweeping political response<br />

to the Depression, in sharp contrast to the previous Republican<br />

administration’s hands-off approach to the crisis.<br />

The electoral process actually does a surprisingly good<br />

job of directing policy in less dramatic ways as well. A good<br />

deal of research demonstrates, for example, that in the states,<br />

elections achieve a remarkable consistency between the<br />

general preferences of citizens and the kinds of policies that<br />

the states enact. 9 At the congressional level, members of the<br />

House and the Senate are quite responsive to the overall<br />

policy wishes of their constituents, and those who are not<br />

Representative<br />

Democracy<br />

Politify<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

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Voting in a Democratic Society 513


Vote Smart<br />

Volunteer members of Project Vote Smart, liberals and conservatives alike, reach out to citizens to inform them about the voting records and<br />

backgrounds of thousands of candidates and elected officials so that voters can make informed decisions. The group accepts no funding from any<br />

organization, special interest group, or industry as part of its effort to maintain its neutral, nonbiased platform.<br />

tend to suffer at the polls. 10 At the presidential level, through<br />

all of the hoopla and confusion of presidential campaigns,<br />

scholars have found that presidents do, for the most part,<br />

deliver on the promises that they make and that the national<br />

parties do accomplish much of what they set out in their<br />

platforms. 11 Finally, elections speed up the process by which<br />

changes in public preferences for a more activist or less<br />

activist (more liberal or more conservative) government are<br />

systematically translated into patterns of public policy. 12<br />

Citizen Development<br />

Some theorists argue that participation in government in and<br />

of itself—regardless of which leaders or policy directions are<br />

chosen—is valuable for citizens and that elections help citizens<br />

feel fulfilled and effective. 13 When individuals are unable to<br />

participate in political affairs, or fail to do so, their sense of<br />

political efficacy, of being effective in political affairs, suffers.<br />

In studies of the American electorate, people who participate<br />

more, whether in elections or through other means, have<br />

higher senses of political efficacy. 14 From this perspective, then,<br />

elections provide a mechanism by which individuals can move<br />

from passive subjects who see themselves pushed and pulled<br />

by forces larger than themselves to active citizens fulfilling<br />

their potential to have a positive effect on their own lives.<br />

Informing the Public<br />

When we watch the circus of the modern presidential<br />

campaign, it may seem a bit of a stretch to say that an<br />

important function of elections, and the campaigns that<br />

Importance of Elections<br />

precede them, is to educate the public. But ideally the<br />

campaign is a time of deliberation when alternative points<br />

of view are aired openly so that the citizenry can judge<br />

the truth and desirability of competing claims and the<br />

competence of competing candidates and parties. The<br />

evidence is that campaigns do in fact have this impact.<br />

People learn a good deal of useful political information from<br />

campaign advertisements and for the most part choose the<br />

candidates who match their values and policy preferences. 15<br />

As citizens, we probably know and understand a lot more<br />

about our government because of our electoral process than<br />

we would without free and competitive elections.<br />

Containing Conflict<br />

Elections help us influence policy, but in other ways they<br />

also limit our options for political influence. 16 When groups<br />

of citizens are unhappy about their taxes, or the quality of<br />

their children’s schools, or congressional appropriations<br />

for cancer research or any other matter, the election booth<br />

is their primary avenue of influence. Of course, they can<br />

write letters and sign petitions, but those have an impact<br />

only because the officials they try to influence must stand<br />

for reelection. Even if their candidate wins, there is no<br />

guarantee that their policy concerns will be satisfied. And<br />

those who complain are likely to hear the systemwide<br />

response: If you don’t like what’s going on, vote for change.<br />

If elections help reduce our political conflicts to electoral<br />

contests, they also operate as a kind of safety valve for citizen<br />

discontent. There is always a relatively peaceful mechanism<br />

political efficacy citizens’ feelings of effectiveness in political affairs<br />

514 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


through which unhappy citizens can vent their energy. Elections<br />

can change officials, replacing Democrats with Republicans or<br />

vice versa, but they do not fundamentally alter the underlying<br />

character of the system. Without the electoral vent, citizens<br />

might eventually turn to more threatening behaviors like<br />

boycotts, protests, civil disobedience, and rebellion.<br />

Legitimation and System Stability<br />

A final important function of elections is to make political<br />

outcomes acceptable to participants. By participating in<br />

the process of elections, we implicitly accept, and thereby<br />

legitimize, the results. The genius here is that participation<br />

tends to make political results acceptable even to those who<br />

lose in an immediate sense. They do not take to the streets,<br />

set up terrorist cells, or stop paying their taxes. Rather, in the<br />

overwhelming majority of instances, citizens who lose in the<br />

electoral process shrug their shoulders, obey the rules made<br />

by the winning representatives, and wait for their next chance<br />

to elect candidates whose policies are more to their liking.<br />

Even many supporters of Al Gore in 2000 came to accept<br />

Bush’s Electoral College victory as conferring legitimacy on<br />

him, despite his loss of the popular vote (see CLUES to Critical<br />

Thinking). The beauty of elections is that they can bring about<br />

change, but without grave threats to the stability of the system.<br />

Who • What • How<br />

Those with the greatest stake in the continued existence<br />

of elections in America are the citizens who live under<br />

their rule. At stake for citizens is, first, the important<br />

question of which candidates and parties will govern.<br />

However, by viewing elections in a broader perspective,<br />

we can see that elections also contribute to the quality of<br />

democratic life: they help to define a crucial relationship<br />

between the governed and those they choose as leaders, to<br />

influence public policy, to educate the citizenry, to contain<br />

conflict, and to legitimize political outcomes and decisions.<br />

Exercising the Right to<br />

Vote in America<br />

The costs of not voting<br />

We argued in <strong>Chapter</strong> 11 that even without being well<br />

informed and following campaigns closely, Americans can still<br />

cast intelligent votes reflecting their best interests. But what<br />

does it say about the American citizenry when, in a typical<br />

presidential election, barely half of the adult population<br />

votes In off-year congressional elections, in primaries, and in<br />

many state and local elections held at different times from the<br />

presidential contest, the rates of participation drop even lower.<br />

How do we explain this low voter turnout Is America<br />

just a nation of political slackers This is a serious and<br />

legitimate question in light of the important functions of<br />

democracy we have just discussed, and in light of the<br />

tremendous struggle many groups have had to achieve the<br />

right to vote. Indeed, as we saw in <strong>Chapter</strong> 6, the history of<br />

American suffrage—the right to vote—is one struggle after<br />

another for access to the ballot box.<br />

Voting varies dramatically in its importance to different<br />

citizens. For some, it is a significant aspect of their identities as<br />

citizens. Eighty-seven percent of American adults believe that<br />

voting in elections is a “very important obligation” for<br />

Americans. 17 Thus many people vote because they believe they<br />

should and because they believe the vote gives them a real<br />

influence on government. However, only about half the<br />

electorate has felt this way strongly enough to vote in recent<br />

presidential elections.<br />

Who Votes and Who Doesn’t<br />

Many political observers, activists, politicians, and political<br />

scientists worry about the extent of nonvoting in the United<br />

States. 18 When people do not vote, they have no voice in<br />

choosing their leaders, their policy preferences are not<br />

registered, and they do not develop as active citizens. Some<br />

observers fear that their abstention signals an alienation<br />

from the political process.<br />

From survey data, we know quite a lot about who votes<br />

and who doesn’t in America in terms of their age, gender,<br />

income, education, and racial and ethnic make-up:<br />

• Age. Older citizens consistently vote at higher rates.<br />

For example, 72.4 percent of those aged sixty-five<br />

to seventy-four years reported voting in the 2008<br />

election, compared to 48.5 percent of those aged<br />

eighteen to twenty-four years. This gap of 24 percent,<br />

however, is a bit smaller than it had been in previous<br />

elections (for example, 21 percent in 2004). However,<br />

the gap in turnout between the young and old<br />

grew to 40 percent as turnout dropped in the 2010<br />

midterm, but especially among young voters. 19<br />

• Gender. Since 1984 women have been voting at a higher<br />

rate than men, although the differences are typically<br />

only 3 or 4 percent. For example, in the 2008<br />

presidential election the turnout rates for women<br />

and men were 65.7 and 61.5 percent, respectively, 20<br />

dropping to 46.2 and 44.8, respectively, in 2010. 21<br />

• Income. The likelihood of voting goes up steadily with<br />

income. For example, in 2008 only 49 percent of those<br />

Bush Legitimacy Young Voters in 2008<br />

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Exercising the Right to Vote in America 515


• CLUES to Critical Thinking<br />

Al Gore’s Concession Speech<br />

December 13, 2000<br />

The 2000 presidential election was unusual<br />

on several counts (see What’s at Stake . . . <br />

in <strong>Chapter</strong> 10). A state’s election results<br />

were contested, amid accusations of fraud<br />

and misleading ballot design; that state’s<br />

supreme court was overruled by the U.S.<br />

Supreme Court in the matter of recounts;<br />

and the results of that contested state<br />

election gave an Electoral College victory to<br />

a candidate who had lost the popular vote.<br />

This concession speech by Al Gore, who won<br />

the popular vote even as he lost the<br />

Electoral College, highlights how elections,<br />

even as odd as this one, serve to<br />

legitimate government when people<br />

agree on the rules.<br />

Good evening.<br />

Just moments ago, I spoke with George W.<br />

Bush and congratulated him on becoming<br />

the 43rd president of the United States,<br />

and I promised him that I wouldn’t call<br />

him back this time.<br />

I offered to meet with him as soon as<br />

possible so that we can start to heal the<br />

divisions of the campaign and the contest<br />

through which we just passed.<br />

Almost a century and a half ago, Senator<br />

Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln,<br />

who had just defeated him for the<br />

presidency, “Partisan feeling must yield<br />

to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President,<br />

and God bless you.”<br />

Well, in that same spirit, I say to<br />

President-elect Bush that what remains<br />

of partisan rancor must now be put aside,<br />

and may God bless his stewardship of this<br />

country.<br />

Neither he nor I anticipated this long<br />

and difficult road. Certainly neither of<br />

us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and<br />

now it has ended, resolved, as it must be<br />

resolved, through the honored institutions<br />

of our democracy.<br />

Over the library of one of our great law<br />

schools is inscribed the motto, “Not under<br />

man but under God and law.” That’s the<br />

ruling principle of American freedom,<br />

the source of our democratic liberties.<br />

I’ve tried to make it my guide throughout<br />

this contest as it has guided America’s<br />

deliberations of all the complex issues of<br />

the past five weeks.<br />

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken.<br />

Let there be no doubt, while I strongly<br />

disagree with the court’s decision, I<br />

accept it. I accept the finality of this<br />

outcome which will be ratified next<br />

Monday in the Electoral College. And<br />

tonight, for the sake of our unity of the<br />

people and the strength of our democracy,<br />

I offer my concession.<br />

I also accept my responsibility, which I<br />

will discharge unconditionally, to honor<br />

the new president elect and do everything<br />

possible to help him bring Americans<br />

together in fulfillment of the great vision<br />

that our Declaration of Independence<br />

defines and that our Constitution affirms<br />

and defends.<br />

Let me say how grateful I am to all<br />

those who supported me and supported<br />

the cause for which we have fought.<br />

Tipper and I feel a deep gratitude to<br />

Joe and Hadassah Lieberman who<br />

brought passion and high purpose to our<br />

partnership and opened new doors, not<br />

just for our campaign but for our country.<br />

This has been an extraordinary election.<br />

But in one of God’s unforeseen paths, this<br />

belatedly broken impasse can point us all to<br />

a new common ground, for its very closeness<br />

can serve to remind us that we are one people<br />

with a shared history and a shared destiny.<br />

Indeed, that history gives us many<br />

examples of contests as hotly debated, as<br />

fiercely fought, with their own challenges<br />

to the popular will.<br />

Other disputes have dragged on for weeks<br />

before reaching resolution. And each time,<br />

both the victor and the vanquished have<br />

accepted the result peacefully and in the<br />

spirit of reconciliation.<br />

So let it be with us.<br />

I know that many of my supporters are<br />

disappointed.<br />

I am too. But our disappointment must be<br />

overcome by our love of country.<br />

And I say to our fellow members of the<br />

world community, let no one see this<br />

contest as a sign of American weakness.<br />

The strength of American democracy<br />

is shown most clearly through the<br />

difficulties it can overcome.<br />

Some have expressed concern that the<br />

unusual nature of this election might<br />

hamper the next president in the conduct<br />

of his office. I do not believe it need be so.<br />

President-elect Bush inherits a nation<br />

whose citizens will be ready to assist him<br />

in the conduct of his large responsibilities.<br />

I personally will be at his disposal, and I<br />

call on all Americans—I particularly urge<br />

making $10,000 or less reported voting, compared to<br />

82 percent of those earning $150,000 or more. 22<br />

• Education. Education is consistently one of the strongest<br />

predictors of turnout. For instance, in the 2008<br />

election, only 39 percent of those with less than a<br />

high school education voted, compared to almost<br />

77 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree; 82.7<br />

percent of those with advanced degrees voted.<br />

• Race and ethnicity. Turnout among members of racial and<br />

ethnic minority groups has traditionally been lower<br />

516 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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all who stood with us to unite behind our<br />

next president. This is America. Just as we<br />

fight hard when the stakes are high, we<br />

close ranks and come together when the<br />

contest is done.<br />

And while there will be time enough to<br />

debate our continuing differences, now is<br />

the time to recognize that that which unites<br />

us is greater than that which divides us.<br />

While we yet hold and do not yield our<br />

opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than<br />

the one we owe to political party. This is<br />

America and we put country before party. We<br />

will stand together behind our new president.<br />

As for what I’ll do next, I don’t know the<br />

answer to that one yet. Like many of<br />

you, I’m looking forward to spending the<br />

holidays with family and old friends. I know<br />

I’ll spend time in Tennessee and mend<br />

some fences, literally and figuratively.<br />

Some have asked whether I have any regrets<br />

and I do have one regret: that I didn’t<br />

get the chance to stay and fight for the<br />

American people over the next four years,<br />

especially for those who need burdens lifted<br />

and barriers removed, especially for those<br />

who feel their voices have not been heard. I<br />

heard you and I will not forget.<br />

I’ve seen America in this campaign and I<br />

like what I see. It’s worth fighting for and<br />

that’s a fight I’ll never stop.<br />

As for the battle that ends tonight, I do<br />

believe as my father once said, that no<br />

matter how hard the loss, defeat might<br />

serve as well as victory to shape the soul<br />

and let the glory out.<br />

So for me this campaign ends as it began:<br />

with the love of Tipper and our family;<br />

with faith in God and in the country I have<br />

been so proud to serve, from Vietnam to<br />

the vice presidency; and with gratitude<br />

to our truly tireless campaign staff and<br />

volunteers, including all those who worked<br />

so hard in Florida for the last 36 days.<br />

Now the political struggle is over and we<br />

turn again to the unending struggle for<br />

the common good of all Americans and for<br />

those multitudes around the world who<br />

look to us for leadership in the cause of<br />

freedom.<br />

In the words of our great hymn, “America,<br />

America”: “Let us crown thy good with<br />

brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”<br />

And now, my friends, in a phrase I once<br />

addressed to others, it’s time for me to go.<br />

Thank you and good night, and God bless<br />

America. •<br />

Consider the source and the audience: Gore is speaking to several<br />

audiences here. Who are they Why does he address “our fellow members of the<br />

world community” At the time, Gore was certainly considering a run for the<br />

presidency in the future. How might that have shaped his message How could<br />

he have used this speech to rally supporters if he had wanted to<br />

Lay out the argument, the values, and the assumptions: What personal<br />

values of Gore’s become apparent in this speech How do they affect his<br />

political views What is Gore’s view of the common good here How does that<br />

differ from partisan advantage, and when should the former take precedence<br />

over the latter When should a political outcome be accepted even when one<br />

doesn’t like it How do the “honored institutions of our democracy” help to<br />

resolve contests like this In what context does Gore refer to the Supreme Court<br />

and the Electoral College<br />

Uncover the evidence: What kinds of evidence does Gore use to support his<br />

argument that the result of the election process should be accepted even if one<br />

doesn’t agree with it, and that George W. Bush is the legitimate president of the<br />

United States<br />

Evaluate the conclusion: Did Gore’s use of symbolism and references to<br />

history, law, and religion convince supporters to accept the election result Did<br />

they convince the world that the United States was a stable and solid nation<br />

Did they convince the nation to put the trauma of the partisan backbiting<br />

behind it and move on<br />

Sort out the political implications:<br />

Many electoral reforms were debated<br />

Submit Your Answers<br />

following the election, but few were<br />

enacted. Who would have resisted<br />

reform, and why<br />

than that of whites. But that changed in 2008, with<br />

an African American as the Democratic nominee.<br />

Turnout for blacks was 65 percent, virtually tied with<br />

non-Hispanic whites (66 percent). Hispanic turnout<br />

increased in 2008 to 50 percent, surpassing turnout<br />

among Asians for that year. 23 In the 2010 midterm,<br />

racial and ethnic differences reemerged with turnout<br />

among non-Hispanic whites surpassing African<br />

American turnout by 5 percent and Latino turnout by<br />

17 percent. 24<br />

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Exercising the Right to Vote in America 517


Figure 14.1<br />

Voter Turnout in Presidential and Midterm House Elections, 1932–2010<br />

80<br />

Percentage of eligible electorate<br />

70<br />

60<br />

50<br />

40<br />

Presidential turnout<br />

Midterm turnout<br />

30<br />

1932 36 40 44 48 52 56 60 64 68 72 76 80 84 88 92 96 2000 04 08 12<br />

Sources: Presidential data through 2000 from 2005, The New York Times Almanac, 114; midterm data through 1998 from U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Statistical Abstract, 291; 2004 data and beyond<br />

from United States Election Project, elections.gmu.edu/voter_turnout.htm.<br />

fig 14.1<br />

When we add these characteristics together, the<br />

differences are substantial. Compare, for example, the turnout<br />

among eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old males with less than<br />

a high school education (only 25.5 percent) with the turnout<br />

rate for females aged sixty-five to seventy-four years with<br />

advanced degrees (87.6 percent). 25 By virtue of their different<br />

turnout rates, some groups in American society are receiving<br />

much better representation than others. The same patterns<br />

hold true and are even more pronounced for types of political<br />

engagement other than voting, such as actively working for a<br />

party or candidate in distributing literature, staffing the<br />

phone banks during a get-out-the-vote drive, or making<br />

financial contributions. 26 The upshot is that our elected<br />

officials are indebted to and hear much more from the higher<br />

socioeconomic ranks in society. They do not hear from and<br />

are not elected by the low-participation “have nots.” 27<br />

Why Americans Don’t Vote<br />

As we have noted elsewhere, compared with other<br />

democratic nations, the United States has low voter turnout<br />

levels (see Figure 11.1, on page 407). Despite overall<br />

increases in education, age, and income, which generally<br />

increase the number of voters, presidential election turnout<br />

rates have barely gotten over the 60-percent mark for more<br />

Voter Rights<br />

Voter Fatigue in<br />

Wisconsin<br />

than thirty years (and Thinking Outside the Box<br />

midterm congressional<br />

turnout rates have<br />

been much lower) 28<br />

(see Figure 14.1). What<br />

accounts for such low turnout rates in a country where 82<br />

percent of adults say voting is important to democracy 29 —<br />

indeed, in a country that often prides itself on being one of<br />

the best and oldest examples of democracy in the world The<br />

question of low voter turnout in the United States poses a<br />

tremendous puzzle for political scientists, who have focused<br />

on six factors to try to explain this mystery.<br />

Should there be penalties<br />

for those who don’t vote<br />

Legal Obstacles<br />

Voter turnout provides a dramatic illustration of our theme<br />

that rules make a difference in who wins and who loses in<br />

politics. The rules that govern elections vary in democracies<br />

around the world, yielding very different rates of turnout. So,<br />

for example, in many other democracies it is the government,<br />

not the individual voter, that bears the responsibility for<br />

registering citizens to vote, and in some countries—Australia,<br />

Belgium, and Italy, for example—voting is required by law.<br />

Turnout rates in these countries are high. 30 But in the United<br />

States, several election rules actually make it more difficult for<br />

voters to exercise their right to vote, not only by requiring<br />

advance registration but also by limiting voting to a single<br />

weekday when most people have to work. U.S. laws also allow<br />

for many elections, and evidence suggests that frequency of<br />

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elections results in “voter fatigue.” The low turnout that results<br />

may be an accidental consequence of laws intended for other<br />

purposes, but in some cases politicians support those laws in<br />

the belief that high turnout will benefit the other party or be<br />

harmful to stable government.<br />

A number of reform efforts have attempted to ease the<br />

burden of casting a ballot. For instance, Congress passed the<br />

National Voter Registration Act of 1993, or the Motor Voter Bill<br />

as it is more commonly called, which requires the states to take<br />

a more active role in registering people to vote, including<br />

providing registration opportunities when people are applying<br />

for driver’s licenses or at the welfare office. A number of states<br />

also allow extended periods of early voting. In addition, some<br />

states have instituted the option to register on an election day,<br />

and Oregon has even gone as far as having its elections by mail.<br />

Each reform has marginally increased the numbers of people<br />

voting, but on the whole the results have been a disappointment<br />

to reformers. An exhaustive review of the research concluded<br />

that, even with obstacles to voting removed, “for many people,<br />

voting remains an activity from which there is virtually no<br />

gratification—instrumental, expressive, or otherwise.” 31<br />

More recently, laws have been adopted widely in the states<br />

that require various forms of identification as a requirement of<br />

voting. Almost all of them have been sponsored by<br />

Republicans, passed by Republican-controlled legislatures, and<br />

strongly contested by Democratic and civil rights groups. The<br />

ostensible justification is to prevent voter fraud, although<br />

investigations have found virtually no instances of such<br />

fraud. 32 A stream of data shows those most likely to be<br />

disenfranchised by the voter ID laws are overwhelmingly the<br />

types of citizens more likely to support Democratic<br />

candidates. 33 In a close 2008 decision, the Supreme Court<br />

ruled that an Indiana voter ID law—at the time the strictest in<br />

the nation—does not violate the U.S. Constitution. However,<br />

the opinion left an opening for a future challenge if<br />

individuals can show their rights are violated, 34 and in the<br />

days leading up to the 2012 election there were a number of<br />

challenges before the courts. The courts put many of the new<br />

laws on hold, deciding that there wasn’t time to properly<br />

execute them, and altogether the courts pushed back on<br />

restrictive voting rules in Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Arizona,<br />

South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. 35 But the Supreme<br />

Court agreed to hear a challenge to part of the 1965 Voting<br />

Rights Act that requires southern states to “preclear” changes<br />

to their voting laws to ensure they are nondiscriminatory.<br />

Conservatives argue the law is no longer necessary; liberals<br />

argue that the effort to disenfranchise minority voters is still<br />

alive and well. The Supreme Court has signaled that it is likely<br />

to strike down at least part of the law. 36<br />

Attitude Changes<br />

Political scientists have found that some of the low voter<br />

turnout we can see in Figure 14.1 is accounted for by<br />

changes over time in psychological orientations or attitudes<br />

toward politics. 37 For one thing, if people feel that they do<br />

not or cannot make a difference and that government is not<br />

responsive to their wishes, they often don’t bother to vote.<br />

Lower feelings of political efficacy lead to less participation.<br />

A second orientation that has proved important in<br />

explaining low turnout is partisanship. There was a distinct<br />

decline in Americans’ attachments to the two major political<br />

parties in the 1960s and 1970s. With a drop in party<br />

identification came a drop in voting levels. This decline,<br />

however, has leveled off, and in recent years there has even<br />

been an increase in the percentage of citizens saying they<br />

identify as Democrats or Republicans. This slight increase in<br />

partisanship may have stemmed the decline in turnout that<br />

was apparent from the late 1960s through the 1980s.<br />

Attitudes, of course, do not change without some cause; they<br />

reflect citizens’ reactions to what they see in the political world. It<br />

is easy to understand why attitudes have changed since the<br />

relatively tranquil 1950s. Amid repeated scandal and increasing<br />

partisanship, our public airwaves have been dominated by<br />

negative information about and images of the leadership in<br />

Washington, D.C. The Bush administration did enjoy a period of<br />

good feeling in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks as<br />

the nation rallied against the threat of terrorism, but that<br />

dissipated as politics got back to usual. President Obama ran<br />

successfully by raising expectations for a more inclusive, cleaner,<br />

and less partisan politics. Many in the electorate bought the<br />

message of hope, and the United States saw the highest turnout<br />

levels in decades. However, while Obama was able to pass quite a<br />

bit of legislation, the deep partisan differences that divide the<br />

parties and the complexities of our economic and environmental<br />

problems dashed the (perhaps unrealistic) hopes of many voters.<br />

In 2010 Democratic voter turnout was down, especially among<br />

young voters as discussed above, in part because midterm election<br />

turnout always drops but also possibly reflecting frustration with<br />

Obama’s inability to change the tone as he had promised and<br />

with the continued partisanship in politics. As we saw in <strong>Chapter</strong><br />

7, the new and very ideological Republican majority in the House<br />

did nothing to quell the rancorous partisanship inside the Beltway.<br />

Voter Mobilization<br />

Another factor that political scientists argue has led to lower<br />

turnout from the 1960s into the 2000s is a change in the<br />

Voter ID Laws<br />

More on Voter ID Battle<br />

Motor Voter Bill legislation allowing citizens to register to vote at<br />

the same time they apply for a driver’s license or other state benefit<br />

Daily Show on<br />

Voter ID<br />

Midterm Turnout<br />

Exercising the Right to Vote in America 519<br />

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Can’t Wait to Vote<br />

Mobilization efforts like early voting and mail-in ballots aim to boost turnout by making the<br />

process easier. Yet in some states, restrictions are making the process more difficult. Here,<br />

Florida voters lined up early to cast their ballots in the 2008 presidential election.<br />

efforts of politicians, interest groups, and especially political<br />

parties to make direct contact with people during election<br />

campaigns. 38 Voter mobilization includes contacting people—<br />

especially supporters—to inform them about the election<br />

and to persuade them to vote. It can take the form of making<br />

phone calls, knocking on doors, or even supplying rides to the<br />

polls. As the technology of campaigns, especially the use of<br />

television, developed and expanded in the 1980s and 1990s,<br />

fewer resources were used for the traditional shoe-leather<br />

efforts of direct contact with voters, but solid evidence now<br />

indicates that personal contacts do a better job of getting<br />

out the vote than do mass mailing and telephone calls. 39<br />

Television is certainly useful for reaching large numbers of<br />

citizens with a campaign message, but it is less effective at<br />

motivating people to vote. In fact, negative television attack<br />

ads tend to turn people off and hurt turnout. 40 As we saw<br />

in What’s at Stake. . . , recently, both Democrats and Republicans<br />

have increased their efforts at voter mobilization. They and a<br />

growing number of interest groups are combining computer<br />

technology with personal contacts as an integral part of their<br />

overall campaigns. 41 The increases in turnout that we have<br />

seen in the last few presidential elections (see Figure 14.1) are<br />

attributable, at least in part, to these efforts. 42<br />

Decrease in Social Connectedness<br />

Some of the overall decline in voter turnout toward the end<br />

of the last century is due to larger societal changes rather than<br />

Older Citizens Voting<br />

Don’t Vote<br />

to citizen reactions to parties and political<br />

leaders. Social connectedness refers to the<br />

number of organizations people participate<br />

in and how tightly knit their communities<br />

and families are—that is, how well integrated<br />

they are into the society in which they<br />

live. The evidence indicates that people<br />

are increasingly likely to live alone and to<br />

be single, new to their communities, and<br />

isolated from organizations. As individuals<br />

loosen or altogether lose their ties to the<br />

larger community, they have less of a stake in<br />

participating in communal decisions—and<br />

less support for participatory activities. Lower<br />

levels of social connectedness have been an<br />

important factor in accounting for the low<br />

turnout in national elections. 43<br />

Generational Changes<br />

Events occurring in the formative years of a<br />

generation continue to shape its members’<br />

orientation toward politics throughout their lives, and can<br />

account for varying turnout levels. This is different from the<br />

observation that people are more likely to vote as they get older.<br />

For instance, those age groups (cohorts) that came of age after<br />

the 1960s show much lower levels of attachment to politics, and<br />

they vote at lower rates than do their parents or grandparents.<br />

Some research suggests that generational differences account<br />

for much or most of the turnout decline at the end of the<br />

1990s. That is, people who once voted have not stopped voting;<br />

rather, they are dying and are being replaced by younger, less<br />

politically engaged voters. The result is lower turnout overall. 44<br />

Of course it is possible for this trend to be reversed as events and<br />

personalities politicize and mobilize new generations of citizens.<br />

The Rational Nonvoter<br />

A final explanation for the puzzle of low voter turnout in<br />

America considers that, for some people, not voting may be the<br />

rational choice. This explanation suggests that the question to ask<br />

is not “Why don’t people vote” but rather “Why does anyone<br />

vote” The definition of rational means that the benefits of an<br />

action outweigh the costs. It is rational for us to do those things<br />

from which we get back more than we put in. Voting demands<br />

our resources, time, and effort. Given those costs, if someone<br />

views voting primarily as a way to influence government and<br />

sees no other benefits from it, it becomes a largely irrational<br />

act. 45 That is, no one individual’s vote can change the course of<br />

voter mobilization a party’s efforts to inform potential voters<br />

about issues and candidates and to persuade them to vote<br />

social connectedness citizens’ involvement in groups and their<br />

relationships to their communities and families<br />

520 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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an election unless the election would otherwise be a tie, and the<br />

probability of that happening in a presidential election is small<br />

(though, as the 2000 election showed, it is not impossible).<br />

For many people, however, the benefits of voting go<br />

beyond the likelihood that they will affect the outcome of the<br />

election. In fact, studies have demonstrated that turnout<br />

decisions are not really based on our thinking that our votes<br />

will determine the outcome. Rather, we achieve other kinds of<br />

benefits from voting. It feels good to do what we think we are<br />

supposed to do or to help, however little, the side or the causes<br />

we believe in. Plus, we get social rewards from our politically<br />

involved friends for voting (and avoid sarcastic remarks for not<br />

voting). These benefits accrue no matter which side wins.<br />

Does Nonvoting Matter<br />

What difference does it make that some people vote and<br />

others do not There are two ways to tackle this question. One<br />

approach is to ask whether election outcomes would be different<br />

if nonvoters were to participate. The other approach is to ask<br />

whether higher levels of nonvoting indicate that democracy<br />

is not healthy. Both questions, of course, concern important<br />

potential consequences of low participation in our elections.<br />

Consequences for Election Outcomes<br />

Studies of the likely effects of nonvoting come up with<br />

contradictory answers. A traditional, and seemingly logical,<br />

approach is to note that nonvoters, being disproportionately poor<br />

and less educated, have social and economic characteristics that<br />

are more common among Democrats than among Republicans.<br />

Therefore, were these people to vote, we could expect that<br />

Democratic candidates would do better. Some polling results<br />

support this thinking. Pollsters asked registered voters a number<br />

of questions to judge how likely it was that they would actually<br />

vote in elections for House members. When the voting intentions<br />

of all registered voters and the subset of likely voters were<br />

compared, the likely voters were distinctly more Republican.<br />

If this were to hold true generally, we could conclude that<br />

nonvoting works to the disadvantage of Democratic candidates.<br />

One political scholar found some evidence of this for the 1980<br />

presidential election and concluded that a much higher turnout<br />

among nonvoters would have made the election closer and<br />

that Jimmy Carter might even have won reelection. 46 Similarly,<br />

when political scientists have run simulations to test whether full<br />

turnout would alter the results in elections for the U.S. Senate,<br />

the share of the vote for Democratic candidates is increased, but<br />

given that these elections are not particularly close, the extra<br />

votes would seldom change the winner of the elections. 47<br />

Undermining this interpretation are findings from most<br />

other presidential elections that nonvoters’ preferences are quite<br />

responsive to short-term factors, so they go disproportionately<br />

for the winning candidate. Because these voters are less partisan<br />

and have less intensely held issue positions, they are moved<br />

more easily by the short-term campaign factors favoring one<br />

party or the other. In most presidential elections, nonvoters’<br />

participation would have increased the winner’s margin only<br />

slightly or not changed things at all. 48 Interviews taken shortly<br />

after the two most recent presidential elections suggest that<br />

those who did not vote would have broken for the winner,<br />

Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008. 49<br />

We are left with an interesting inconsistency: Research<br />

suggests that the potential effects of mobilizing nonvoters are<br />

probably not as consistently pro-Democratic as popular<br />

commentary suggests. But at the same time, in one voting<br />

reform rule after another, we see Democrats consistently<br />

favoring measures to increase turnout and Republicans just as<br />

consistently favoring more restrictive rules. 50 Thus, the politics<br />

of regulating the electorate is intensely partisan, even while<br />

the actual consequences remain somewhat uncertain.<br />

Consequences for Democracy<br />

Low turnout might not affect who wins an election, but<br />

elections do more than simply select leaders. How might<br />

nonvoting affect the quality of democratic life in America<br />

Nonvoting can influence the stability and legitimacy of<br />

democratic government. The victor in close presidential<br />

elections, for example, must govern the country, but as<br />

critics often point out, as little as 25 percent of the eligible<br />

electorate may have voted for the winner. When a majority of<br />

the electorate sits out of an election, the entire governmental<br />

process may begin to<br />

lose legitimacy in society Thinking Outside the Box<br />

at large. Nonvoting can<br />

also have consequences<br />

for the nonvoter. As we<br />

have noted, failure to participate politically can aggravate<br />

already low feelings of efficacy and produce higher levels of<br />

political estrangement. To the extent that being a citizen is an<br />

active pursuit, unhappy, unfulfilled, and unconnected citizens<br />

seriously damage the quality of democratic life for themselves<br />

and for the country as a whole.<br />

Who • What • How<br />

Is our democracy stronger<br />

if more Americans vote<br />

All political actors are not equal on Election Day. Some<br />

reduce their power considerably by failing to turn out to<br />

vote. Two things are at stake in these turnout patterns. The<br />

first is a question of representation and political power:<br />

while many politicians would like to attend to the needs of<br />

all constituents equally, when push comes to shove and they<br />

have to make hard choices, voters are going to be heeded<br />

more than silent nonvoters. A second issue at stake in low<br />

Voting Rights<br />

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Exercising the Right to Vote in America 521


and declining turnout rates is the quality of democratic<br />

life—and the stability and legitimacy of the system.<br />

Nonvoting is tied to citizen estrangement from the political<br />

process, and in this view the quality of democratic life itself<br />

depends on active citizen participation.<br />

How the Voter Decides<br />

Many factors determine the final choice<br />

Putting an X next to a name on a ballot or pulling a lever on a<br />

voting machine or even putting your finger on a party icon on<br />

a touch-screen monitor to register a preference would seem<br />

like a pretty simple act. But although the action itself may be<br />

simple, the decision process behind the choice is anything<br />

but. A number of considerations go into our decision about<br />

how to vote, including our partisan identification and social<br />

group membership; our gender, race, and ethnicity; our stance<br />

on the issues and our evaluation of the job government has<br />

been doing generally; and our opinions of the candidates.<br />

In this section we examine how these factors play out in the<br />

simple act of voting.<br />

Partisanship and<br />

Social Group Membership<br />

The single biggest factor accounting for how people decide to<br />

vote is party identification, a concept we discussed in <strong>Chapter</strong> 12.<br />

For most citizens, party ID is stable and long-term, carrying<br />

over from one election to the next in what one scholar has<br />

called “a standing decision.” 51 In 2012, for example, 92<br />

percent of those identifying with the Democratic Party voted<br />

for Barack Obama, and 93 percent of those identifying with<br />

the Republican Party voted for Mitt Romney. 52<br />

Clearly, party ID has a strong and direct influence on<br />

identifiers’ voting decisions. Scholars have demonstrated that<br />

party ID also has an important indirect influence on voting<br />

decisions, because voters’ party ID also colors their views on<br />

policy issues and their evaluation of candidates, leading them to<br />

judge their party’s candidate and issue positions as superior. 53<br />

Under unusual circumstances, social group characteristics can<br />

exaggerate or override traditional partisan loyalties. The 1960<br />

election, for instance, was cast in terms of whether the nation<br />

would elect its first Catholic president. In that context, religion<br />

was especially salient, and fully 82 percent of Roman Catholics<br />

supported John F. Kennedy, compared to just 37 percent of<br />

Protestants—a difference of 45 percentage points. Compare that<br />

to 1976, when the Democrats ran a devout Baptist, Jimmy Carter,<br />

for president. The percentage of Catholics voting Democratic<br />

Party Identification by<br />

Voters<br />

522 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

dropped to 58 percent, while Protestants voting Democratic<br />

increased to 46 percent. The difference shrank to just 12 percent.<br />

Gender, Race, and Ethnicity<br />

The impact of gender on voting decisions is not clear. In<br />

<strong>Chapter</strong> 11 we discussed the gender gap in the positions<br />

men and women take on the issues, which has generally<br />

led women to be more likely to support the Democratic<br />

candidate. Since 1964, women have been more supportive of<br />

the Democratic candidate in every presidential election but<br />

one (they were not more likely to support Carter in 1976),<br />

and the Democrats clearly wanted to put women’s issues at<br />

the forefront on the 2012 campaign. 54 But women do not<br />

vote monolithically; for instance, married women are more<br />

conservative than single women.<br />

It’s an open question whether the gender of a candidate<br />

affects the women’s vote. In statewide races, there is some<br />

evidence that Republican and independent women will cross<br />

party lines to vote for Democratic women candidates, though<br />

the opposite is not true for Republican women candidates. 55<br />

In the Super Tuesday 2008 Democratic primaries, a larger<br />

percentage of women than men voted for Hillary Clinton in<br />

fourteen out of sixteen states. 56 However, despite the<br />

speculation that the nomination of Sarah Palin as the<br />

Republican vice presidential candidate might have swayed<br />

some women to support the McCain-Palin ticket, there was<br />

little evidence in the 2008 exit polls to support that idea.<br />

African Americans have tended to vote Democratic since<br />

the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In fact, African<br />

Americans have averaged just under 90 percent of the<br />

two-party vote for the Democratic candidate in recent<br />

presidential elections (1988 to 2004). 57 The nomination of<br />

Barack Obama, the first black to receive a major party’s<br />

presidential nomination, increased the solidarity of the African<br />

American vote even further in 2008. This was evident in the<br />

Democratic primaries, where the African American vote was a<br />

major factor, with 82 percent of it going for Obama, compared<br />

to 16 percent for Hillary Clinton. Having a black presidential<br />

candidate heightened the role of race in the general election as<br />

well. African American support for the Democratic ticket<br />

reached a record 95 percent in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012. 58<br />

Ethnicity is less predictive of the vote than race, partly<br />

because ethnic groups in the United States become politically<br />

diverse as they are assimilated into the system. Although<br />

immigrant groups have traditionally found a home in the<br />

Democratic Party, dating back to the days when the party<br />

machine would provide a one-stop shop for new immigrants<br />

seeking jobs, homes, and social connections, recent immigrant<br />

groups today include Asians and Hispanics, both of which<br />

comprise diverse ethnic communities with distinct identities<br />

and varying partisan tendencies. 59 These diverse groups tend<br />

to support the Democratic Party, but each has subgroups that<br />

are distinctly more Republican: Vietnamese, in the case of<br />

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• Who Are We How did we vote in the 2012 election<br />

Changes in the Electorate, 2000–2012<br />

The 2012 Presidential Election, by Demographic Group<br />

Marital Status/Gender<br />

Married Men<br />

Married Women<br />

Unmarried Men<br />

Unmarried Women<br />

Size of Place<br />

Cities (over 50,000)<br />

Suburbs<br />

Small cities & rural<br />

Race/Ethnicity<br />

White (non-Hispanic)<br />

African American<br />

Latino<br />

Asian American<br />

Other<br />

Age<br />

18–29<br />

30–44<br />

45–64<br />

65 & over<br />

2000 2012<br />

33.2 29<br />

31.9<br />

15.5<br />

19.3<br />

29<br />

43<br />

28<br />

81<br />

9.7<br />

6.5<br />

1.7<br />

1.4<br />

16.7<br />

32.9<br />

28.4<br />

22<br />

31<br />

18<br />

23<br />

32<br />

47<br />

21<br />

74<br />

13<br />

9.0<br />

2.0<br />

3<br />

18<br />

29<br />

37<br />

16<br />

−10 −5 0 5 10<br />

Changes as percentage of voters<br />

Source: Figures for 2000 calculated by authors from Voter News Service General<br />

Election Exit Polls, 2000 (obtained from Inter-university Consortium for Political<br />

and Social Research); for 2012, figures calculated from ABC News 2012 Exit Polls,<br />

http://abcnews.go.com/politics/elections/Nationalep=pre_na.<br />

Democrats (38%)<br />

Independents (29%)<br />

Republicans (32%)<br />

White (non-Hispanic)<br />

(72%)<br />

African American<br />

(13%)<br />

Latino (10%)<br />

Asian American (2%)<br />

Other (2%)<br />

Protestant (29%)<br />

Catholic (25%)<br />

Mormon (2%)<br />

Jewish (2%)<br />

Other (7%)<br />

None (12%)<br />

Party Identification<br />

0 20 40 60 80 100<br />

Race/Ethnicity<br />

0 20 40 60 80 100<br />

Religion<br />

0 20 40 60 80 100<br />

Liberals (25%)<br />

Moderates (41%)<br />

Conservatives (35%)<br />

Woman (53%)<br />

Men (47%)<br />

18–29 (19%)<br />

30–44 (27%)<br />

45–64 (38%)<br />

65 and over (16%)<br />

Under $30,000 (20%)<br />

$30,000–49,999<br />

(21%)<br />

$50,000–99,999<br />

(31%)<br />

$100,000–199,999<br />

(21%)<br />

$200,000–249,999<br />

(3%)<br />

More than $250,000<br />

(4%)<br />

Ideology<br />

0 20 40 60 80 100<br />

Gender<br />

0 20 40 60 80 100<br />

Age<br />

0 20 40 60 80 100<br />

Income<br />

0 20 40 60 80 100<br />

Barack Obama Mit Romney Other/No answer<br />

Issue Ownership in the 2012 Election<br />

Which issues were most important (percentage<br />

responding “most important”)<br />

Source: ABC News 2012 Exit Polls, http://abcnews.go.com/politics/elections/Nationalep=pre_na.<br />

Note: Values in parentheses indicate the proportion each group made up of the electorate; bars indicate the<br />

presidential vote division of that group.<br />

*The economy (59%)<br />

**Deficit (15%)<br />

*Health care (18%)<br />

*Foreign policy (5%)<br />

0 20 40 60 80 100<br />

% Voting for Obama % Voting for Romney<br />

% Voting for other candidates<br />

Source: ABC News 2012 Exit Polls, http://abcnews.go.com/<br />

politics/elections/Nationalep=pre_na.<br />

*Issues favoring Obama.<br />

**Issue favoring Romney.<br />

Behind the Numbers<br />

Here we see both long- and<br />

short-run problems that inform<br />

our understanding of the 2012<br />

presidential election. In what<br />

some have termed the “ticking<br />

demographic time bomb,” we<br />

can see the electorate has<br />

changed (and will continue<br />

to change). Fewer voters are<br />

in traditional households<br />

(husband and wife) and the<br />

electorate is becoming less<br />

rural, less white, and younger.<br />

Looking ahead, the Republican<br />

Party faces a challenge: all<br />

of these groups are growing<br />

and vote disproportionately<br />

Democratic. Also note that<br />

although Romney won handily<br />

among the 15% who considered<br />

the deficit the most important<br />

problem, he was unable<br />

to hold the advantage he<br />

initially had with voters on the<br />

economy. With that advantage<br />

neutralized, Obama was able<br />

to win with his edge on other<br />

issues, particularly among<br />

those most concerned with his<br />

signature policy, health care.<br />

How the Voter Decides 523<br />

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Asians, and Cubans, among Latino groups. 60 That said, in<br />

2012, Obama received the overwhelming majority of<br />

Hispanic votes. Nationally 71 percent of Latino voters<br />

supported Obama (up from 67 percent in 2008), as did 73<br />

percent of Asian Americans, and 58 percent of all other racial<br />

and ethnic minorities. One observer calls these groups the<br />

“coalition of the ascendant,” meaning that these are growing<br />

portions of the population whose support for the Democratic<br />

Party spells trouble for the Republicans if they cannot broaden<br />

their appeal. 61<br />

Issues and Policy<br />

An idealized view of elections would have highly attentive<br />

citizens paying careful attention to the different policy<br />

positions offered by the candidates and then, perhaps aided<br />

by informed policy analyses from the media, casting their<br />

ballots for the candidates who best represent their preferred<br />

policy solutions. In truth, as we know by now, American<br />

citizens are not “ideal,” and the role played by issues is less<br />

obvious and more complicated than the ideal model would<br />

predict. The role of issues in electoral decision making is<br />

limited by the following factors:<br />

• People are busy and, in many cases, rely on party<br />

labels to tell them what they need to know about the<br />

candidates. 62<br />

• People know where they stand on “easy” issues like<br />

capital punishment or prayer in schools, but some<br />

issues, like economic and tax policy, health care,<br />

Social Security reform, or foreign policy in the Middle<br />

East, are complicated. Many citizens tend to tune out<br />

these more complicated issues or, confused, fail to<br />

vote in their own interests. 63<br />

• The media do not generally cover issues in depth. Instead,<br />

they much prefer to focus on the horse-race aspect of<br />

elections, looking at who is ahead in the polls rather than<br />

what substantive policy issues mean for the nation. 64<br />

• As we discussed in <strong>Chapter</strong> 11, people process a<br />

lot of policy-relevant information in terms of their<br />

impressions of candidates (on-line processing) rather<br />

than as policy information. They are certainly influenced<br />

by policy information, but they cannot necessarily<br />

articulate their opinions and preferences on policy.<br />

Although calculated policy decisions by voters are rare,<br />

policy considerations do have a real impact on voters’<br />

decisions. To see that, it is useful to distinguish between<br />

prospective and retrospective voting. The idealized model of<br />

Side With Quiz<br />

Retrospective Voting<br />

policy voting with which we opened this section is<br />

prospective voting, in which voters base their decisions on<br />

what will happen in the future if they vote for a candidate—<br />

what policies will be enacted, what values will be<br />

emphasized in policy. Prospective voting requires a good deal<br />

of information that average voters, as we have seen, do not<br />

always have or even want. While all voters do some<br />

prospective voting and, by election time, are usually aware of<br />

the candidates’ major issue positions, it is primarily party<br />

activists and political elites who engage in the full-scale<br />

policy analysis that prospective voting entails.<br />

Instead, most voters supplement their spotty policy<br />

information and interest with their evaluation of how they<br />

think the country is doing, how the economy has performed,<br />

and how well the incumbents have carried out their jobs.<br />

They engage in retrospective voting, casting their votes as<br />

signs of approval based on past performance to signal their<br />

desire for more of the same or for change. 65<br />

In presidential elections this means that voters look back at<br />

the state of the economy, at perceived successes or failures in<br />

foreign policy, and at domestic issues like education, gun<br />

control, or welfare reform. In 1980 Ronald Reagan skillfully<br />

focused on voter frustration in the presidential debate by asking<br />

voters this question: “[A]re you better off than you were four<br />

years ago” 66 Politicians have been reprising that question ever<br />

since. In 2008 the situation was more complicated, as no<br />

incumbent was running, but nonetheless Democrat Barack<br />

Obama tried to make the election a retrospective referendum<br />

on the Bush years, tying Republican John McCain to Bush’s<br />

record whenever he could. The effort was partially successful;<br />

fully 67 percent of the almost three-quarters of the electorate<br />

who disapproved of how Bush was handling his job voted for<br />

Obama. But in the 2010 midterm elections Republicans<br />

managed to turn the strategy back on Obama, pegging the<br />

stubbornly bad economy to his policies and tapping into voter<br />

angst about the economy to turn Democrats out of office.<br />

In 2012 the central strategic campaign objective of the<br />

Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, was to cast the election<br />

as a referendum on Obama’s culpability for a slow economic<br />

recovery, hoping that this strategy would push voters to cast a<br />

ballot for change. The Obama campaign had the challenge of<br />

changing the subject and making the election a choice<br />

between the president’s and Romney’s visions for the country.<br />

The Obama campaign began a concerted effort to shape<br />

public views of Romney in the summer of 2012, running<br />

commercials that painted the Republican as a rich venture<br />

prospective voting basing voting decisions on well-informed<br />

opinions and consideration of the future consequences of a<br />

given vote<br />

retrospective voting basing voting decisions on reactions to<br />

past performance; approving the status quo or a desire for change<br />

524 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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capitalist who was out of touch with middle-class America.<br />

By the time Romney began to answer those ads in the fall<br />

campaign, many people had made up their minds. Gaffes on<br />

Romney’s part, particularly his statement caught on videotape<br />

that 47 percent of Americans would never vote for him<br />

because they were dependent on government and took no<br />

responsibility for their lives, cemented his fate. Although the<br />

election was close, exit polls showed that most voters did not<br />

hold Obama responsible for the economy and thought he<br />

cared more about their concerns than Romney did.<br />

Retrospective voting is considered to be “easy” decision<br />

making as opposed to the more complex decision making<br />

involved in prospective voting because one only has to ask,<br />

“How have things been going” as a guide to whether to<br />

support the current party in power. Retrospective voting is<br />

also seen as a useful way of holding politicians accountable,<br />

not for what they said or are saying in a campaign, but for<br />

what they or members of their party in power did. Some<br />

scholars believe that this type of voting is all that is needed<br />

for democracy to function well. 67 In practice, voters combine<br />

elements of both voting strategies.<br />

The Candidates<br />

In addition to considerations of party, personal<br />

demographics, and issues, voters also base their decisions on<br />

judgments about candidates as individuals. What influences<br />

voters’ images of candidates<br />

Some observers have claimed that voters view candidate<br />

characteristics much as they would a beauty or personality<br />

contest. There is little support, however, for the notion that voters<br />

are won over merely by good looks or movie-star qualities.<br />

Consider, for example, that Richard Nixon almost won against<br />

John F. Kennedy, who had good looks, youth, and a quick wit in<br />

his favor. Then, in 1964, the awkward, gangly Lyndon Johnson<br />

defeated the more handsome and articulate Barry Goldwater in a<br />

landslide. In fact, ample evidence indicates that voters form clear<br />

opinions about candidate qualities that are relevant to governing,<br />

such as trustworthiness, competence, experience, and sincerity.<br />

Citizens also make judgments about the ability of the candidates<br />

to lead the nation and withstand the pressures of the presidency.<br />

Ronald Reagan, for example, was admired widely for his ability<br />

to stay above the fray of Washington politics and to see the<br />

humor in many situations. By contrast, his predecessor, Jimmy<br />

Carter, seemed overwhelmed by the job.<br />

The 2012 campaign allowed voters to develop distinct<br />

images of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. First, voters had<br />

four years of almost daily experience with Obama as<br />

president, and one thing that the polls showed was that voters<br />

generally liked him, even in an economy that virtually<br />

everyone agreed had not recovered fast enough. In January of<br />

2012 one poll found that fully 71 percent agreed that the<br />

president was “warm and friendly” rather than “cold and<br />

aloof.” 68 Similarly, Obama stacked up well as a “good<br />

communicator” and one who “cares about people like me.”<br />

Voters who valued this attribute most in their voting decisions<br />

cast 81 percent of their ballots for Obama. 69 Obama’s<br />

challenger Mitt Romney early on decided to stress his success<br />

in business as qualification for dealing with the economy. He<br />

did manage to hold an edge on who could manage the<br />

economy better (just 49 percent to 48 percent in the exit<br />

polls), but, with the help of a lot of Democratic and Obama<br />

ads, he came to be seen as a rich plutocrat who was<br />

unconcerned about the average person. Pundits and late-night<br />

comedians got a lot of mileage out of Romney’s off-the-cuff<br />

offer of a $10,000 wager during a primary debate, his remark<br />

that he liked to fire people who perform services for him, and<br />

his remarks to his contributors about the 47 percent who do<br />

not pay income taxes. Clearly there was a substantial<br />

difference in perceptions of the candidates in 2012: both<br />

candidates were seen as competent to deal with the most<br />

important problem, the economy, but Obama was perceived<br />

as also caring more about the average citizen.<br />

Who • What • How<br />

Citizens have a strong interest in seeing that good<br />

and effective leaders are elected and that power transfers<br />

peacefully from losers to winners. By the standard of highly<br />

informed voters carefully weighing the alternative policy<br />

proposals of competing candidates, the electorate may seem<br />

to fall short. However, by a realistic standard that considers<br />

the varying abilities of people and the frequent reluctance<br />

of candidates and the media to be fully forthcoming about<br />

policy proposals, the electorate does not do too badly.<br />

Voters come to their decisions through a mix of partisan<br />

considerations, membership in social groups, policy<br />

information, and candidate image.<br />

Presidential Campaigns<br />

The long, expensive road to the White House<br />

Being president of the United States is undoubtedly a<br />

difficult challenge, but so is getting the job in the first place.<br />

In this section we examine the long, expensive, and grueling<br />

“road to the White House,” as the media like to call it.<br />

Getting Nominated<br />

Each of the major parties (and the minor parties, too) needs<br />

to come up with a single viable candidate from the long<br />

list of party members with ambitions to serve in the White<br />

House. How the candidate is chosen will determine the<br />

sort of candidate chosen. Remember, in politics the rules<br />

are always central to shaping the outcome. Prior to 1972,<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 525


primary election results were mostly considered “beauty<br />

contests” because their results were not binding. But since<br />

1972, party nominees for the presidency have been chosen<br />

in primaries, taking the power away from the party elite<br />

and giving it to the activist members of the party who care<br />

enough to turn out and vote in the party primaries.<br />

The Pre-primary Season<br />

It is hard to say when a candidate’s presidential campaign<br />

actually begins. Potential candidates may begin planning<br />

and thinking about running for the presidency in childhood.<br />

Bill Clinton is said to have wanted to be president since<br />

high school, when he shook President Kennedy’s hand.<br />

At one time or another, many people in politics consider<br />

going for the big prize, but there are several crucial steps<br />

between wishful thinking and running for the nomination.<br />

Candidates vary somewhat in their approach to the process,<br />

but most of those considering a run for the White House go<br />

through the following steps:<br />

1. Potential candidates usually test the waters unofficially.<br />

They talk to friends and fellow politicians to see just<br />

how much support they can count on, and they often<br />

leak news of their possible candidacy to the press to<br />

see how it is received in the media. This period of<br />

jockeying for money, lining up top campaign<br />

consultants, generating media buzz, and getting<br />

commitments of potential support from party and<br />

interest group notables even before candidates<br />

announce they are running is called the invisible<br />

primary. Some candidates may have an interest but<br />

find during the invisible primary that there is not<br />

enough early support among the powerful or the<br />

public to support a presidential run. 70<br />

2. If the first step has positive results, candidates file with<br />

the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to set up a<br />

committee to receive funds so that they can officially<br />

explore their prospects. The formation of an exploratory<br />

committee can be exploited as a media event by the<br />

candidate, using the occasion to get free publicity for<br />

the launching of the still-unannounced campaign.<br />

3. It costs a lot of money for a candidate to be taken<br />

seriously. Some well-positioned candidates are able to<br />

raise large amounts of money before they officially<br />

enter the race, whereas others are forced to scramble<br />

to catch up. Those with the most pre-primary funds<br />

are more likely to win. 71 The 2012 Republican<br />

primary nicely illustrated this general truth about<br />

Selection of the<br />

President<br />

The Invisible Primary<br />

presidential primaries: Mitt Romney’s campaign had<br />

raised over $90 million before the primaries even<br />

began, vastly more than his several competitors. While<br />

others rose and fell in popularity, Romney, thanks in<br />

large part to his substantial war chest, was able to<br />

outlast all of them. Former Clinton campaign advisor<br />

and CNN analyst Paul Begala notes that “Napoleon said<br />

god is on the side of big battalions. Voters are usually<br />

on the side of big money.” 72 This is especially the case<br />

in party primaries where the ideological difference<br />

between candidates are not huge, and often the<br />

candidates are not well-known.<br />

4. The potential candidate must use the pre-primary<br />

season to position himself or herself as a credible<br />

prospect with the media. It is no coincidence that in<br />

the last nine elections, the parties’ nominees have all<br />

held prominent government offices and have entered<br />

the field with some media credibility. Incumbents<br />

especially have a huge advantage here.<br />

5. The final step of the pre-primary season is the official<br />

announcement of candidacy. Like the formation of the<br />

exploratory committee, this statement is part of the<br />

campaign itself. Promises are made to supporters,<br />

agendas are set, media attention is captured, and the<br />

process is under way.<br />

Primaries and Caucuses<br />

The actual fight for the nomination takes place in the state party<br />

caucuses and primaries in which delegates to the parties’ national<br />

conventions are chosen. In a party caucus, grassroots members<br />

of the party in each community gather in selected locations to<br />

discuss the current candidates. They then vote for delegates from<br />

that locality who will be sent to the national convention, or<br />

who will go on to larger caucuses at the state level to choose the<br />

national delegates. Attending a caucus is time consuming, and<br />

participation rates are frequently in the single digits, 73 although<br />

an especially heated battle, like that in 2008 between Barack<br />

Obama and Hillary Clinton, saw much higher turnout. Most<br />

states still hold primary elections, but in recent years there has<br />

been a trend toward caucuses, the method used in fifteen states. 74<br />

The most common device for choosing delegates to the<br />

national conventions is the presidential primary. Primary<br />

presidential primary an election by which voters choose<br />

convention delegates committed to voting for a certain candidate<br />

invisible primary early attempts to raise money, line up campaign<br />

consultants, generate media attention, and get commitments for<br />

support even before candidates announce they are running<br />

party caucus local gathering of party members to choose<br />

convention delegates<br />

526 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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voters cast ballots that send delegates committed to voting for<br />

a particular candidate to the conventions. Presidential<br />

primaries can be either open or closed, depending on the<br />

rules the state party organizations adopt, and these can<br />

change from year to year. Any registered voter may vote in an<br />

open primary, regardless of party affiliation. At the polling<br />

place, the voter chooses the ballot of the party whose primary<br />

he or she wants to vote in. Only registered party members<br />

may vote in a closed primary. A subset of this is the semiopen<br />

primary, open only to registered party members and<br />

those not registered as members of another party.<br />

The Democrats also send elected state officials, including<br />

Democratic members of Congress and governors, to their<br />

national conventions. Some of these officials are<br />

“superdelegates,” able to vote as free agents, but the rest must<br />

reflect the state’s primary vote. 75<br />

In addition to varying in terms of whom they allow to<br />

vote, the parties’ primary rules also differ in how they<br />

distribute delegates among the candidates. The Democrats<br />

generally use a method of proportional representation, in<br />

which the candidates get the percentage of delegates equal to<br />

the percentage of the primary vote they win (provided they<br />

get at least 15 percent). Republican rules run from<br />

proportional representation, to winner-take-all (the candidate<br />

with the most votes gets all the delegates, even if he or she<br />

does not win an absolute majority), to direct voting for<br />

delegates (the delegates are not bound to vote for a particular<br />

candidate at the convention), to the absence of a formal<br />

system (caucus participants may decide how to distribute the<br />

delegates).<br />

State primaries also vary in the times at which they are<br />

held, with various states engaged in front-loading, vying to<br />

hold their primaries first in order to gain maximum exposure<br />

in the media and power over the nomination. By tradition and<br />

state law, the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary<br />

are the first contests for delegates. As a result, they get<br />

tremendous attention, from both candidates and the media—<br />

much more than their contribution to the delegate count<br />

would justify. This is why in 1998 other states began moving<br />

their primaries earlier in the season. 76 The process of moving<br />

up primary dates continued in 2012 with the Iowa caucuses<br />

held on January 3 and twenty-three states having held<br />

primaries or caucuses by “Super Tuesday,” which was on<br />

March 6, 2012.<br />

open primary primary election in which eligible voters need not<br />

be registered party members<br />

closed primary primary election in which only registered party<br />

members may vote<br />

front-loading the process of scheduling presidential primaries<br />

early in the primary season<br />

The Shake That Launched a Dream<br />

What inspires a person to want to become president Having the<br />

opportunity to shake the hand of a sitting president—especially one he<br />

particularly admired—clearly meant a lot to the teenaged Bill Clinton.<br />

The consequence of such front-loading is that candidates<br />

must have a substantial war chest and be prepared to<br />

campaign nationally from the beginning. Traditionally,<br />

winners of early primaries could use that success to raise more<br />

campaign funds to continue the battle. With the primaries<br />

stacked at the beginning, however, this becomes much harder.<br />

When the winner can be determined within weeks of the first<br />

primary, it is less likely that a dark horse, or unknown<br />

candidate, can emerge. The process favors well-known, wellconnected,<br />

and, especially, well-funded candidates. Again,<br />

incumbents have an enormous advantage here.<br />

The heavily front-loaded primary has almost no defenders,<br />

but it presents a classic example of the problems of collective<br />

action that politics cannot always solve. 77 No single state has an<br />

incentive to hold back and reduce its power for the good of<br />

the whole; each state is driven to maximize its influence by<br />

Iowa Caucus<br />

Front-Loading<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 527


Challengers Launching the Campaign<br />

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin<br />

representative Paul Ryan, greet the crowd at the Republican National Convention<br />

in Tampa in September 2012. Facing an incumbent president during an economic<br />

downturn, Romney’s choice of Ryan as a running mate signaled that he was staking<br />

out positions on fiscal issues important to the party’s conservative base.<br />

strategically placing its primary early in the pack. Since states<br />

make their own laws, subject to only a few regulations laid<br />

down by the parties, they are able to schedule the primary<br />

season pretty much as they want, regardless of what system<br />

would produce the best nominees for national office.<br />

In the fierce battle that the primaries have become,<br />

incumbents, of course, have a tremendous advantage. No<br />

incumbent has been seriously challenged since Ronald Reagan<br />

gave Gerald Ford a good scare in 1976. While the incumbent’s<br />

advantage is most powerful here, most serious presidential<br />

contenders have at least held some major elected office. Of the<br />

two major parties’ nominees over the past eleven presidential<br />

elections, eight were incumbent presidents, three were former<br />

or incumbent vice presidents, five were senators, and six were<br />

governors. Governors, with executive experience and the<br />

ability to claim that they are untainted by the gridlock politics<br />

of Washington, have recently had the edge, with four of those<br />

six former governors going on to win the presidency.<br />

In most of the crowded primaries in recent years there<br />

has been a clear front-runner, a person who many assume<br />

will win the nomination before the primaries even begin.<br />

Early front-runner status is positive because it means the<br />

528 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

candidate has raised significant money, has a<br />

solid organization, and receives more media<br />

coverage than his or her opponents. But success<br />

in primaries comes not just from getting a<br />

majority of the votes but also from being<br />

perceived as a winner, and front-runners are<br />

punished if they fail to live up to lofty<br />

expectations—the fate shared by Republican<br />

Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Clinton in<br />

2008. The goal for all the other candidates is to<br />

attack the front-runner so as to drive down his<br />

or her support, while maneuvering into position<br />

as the chief alternative. Then if the front-runner<br />

stumbles, as often happens, each of the attacking<br />

candidates hopes to emerge from the pack.<br />

Generally a candidate’s campaign strategy<br />

becomes focused on developing momentum, the<br />

perception by the press, the public, and the<br />

other candidates in the field that one is on a roll,<br />

and that polls, primary victories, endorsements,<br />

and funding are all coming one’s way. Since all<br />

candidates in a primary are from the same party,<br />

voters cannot rely on partisanship as a cue in<br />

making up their minds. Considerations of<br />

electability—which candidate has the best<br />

chance to triumph in November—are important<br />

as voters decide whom to support, and here<br />

candidates who seem to have momentum can<br />

have an advantage. Developing momentum helps<br />

to distinguish one’s candidacy in a crowded field<br />

and is typically established in the early primaries.<br />

Consequently, who actually “wins” in the primaries is not<br />

always the candidate who comes in first in the balloting. An<br />

equally critical factor is whether the candidate is seen to be<br />

improving or fading—the matter of momentum and<br />

expectations. Much of the political credit that a candidate gets<br />

for an apparent “win” depends on who else is running in that<br />

primary and what the media expectations of that candidate’s<br />

performance were.<br />

Figure 14.2 shows the changes in Republican<br />

preferences among the 2012 contenders. Romney had an<br />

initial edge, but each of four different candidates had at least<br />

one short-lived spurt and actually led Romney for a short<br />

time in the polls. Without organization and money to match<br />

Romney, however, none of them could build momentum<br />

and staying power.<br />

front-runner the leading candidate and expected winner of a<br />

nomination or an election<br />

momentum the widely held public perception that a candidate is<br />

gaining electoral strength<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


Figure 14.2<br />

Preferences for 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates<br />

60<br />

50<br />

40<br />

30<br />

20<br />

10<br />

2/15/2011 6/05/2011 9/23/2011 1/11/2012 4/30/2012<br />

Romney Perry Santorum Huntsman Gingrich Bachmann Paul Cain<br />

Source: “RCP Poll Average: Republican Presidential Nomination,” Real Clear Politics, www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/us/republican_presidential_nomination-1452.html.<br />

fig 14.2<br />

The Convention<br />

Since 1972, delegates attending the national conventions have<br />

not had to decide who the parties’ nominees would be. However,<br />

two official actions continue to take place at the conventions.<br />

First, as we discussed in <strong>Chapter</strong> 12, the parties hammer out<br />

and approve their platforms, the documents in which parties set<br />

out their distinct issue positions. Second, the vice presidential<br />

candidate is named officially. The choice of the vice president<br />

is up to the presidential nominee. Traditionally the choice was<br />

made to balance the ticket (ideologically, regionally, or even,<br />

when Democrat Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro<br />

in 1984, by gender). Bill Clinton’s choice of Al Gore was a<br />

departure from this practice, as he tapped a candidate much like<br />

himself—a Democratic moderate from a southern state. In 2000<br />

George W. Bush picked Dick Cheney, a man whose considerable<br />

experience in the federal government could be expected to offset<br />

Bush’s relative lack of it. In 2004 liberal Bostonian John Kerry<br />

returned to the regional and ideological balancing principle,<br />

choosing moderate North Carolina senator John Edwards as his<br />

running mate, though he broke with tradition by announcing<br />

his choice three weeks before his party’s convention.<br />

In 2008 Barack Obama chose Delaware senator Joe Biden<br />

as his running mate, going for an experienced hand with a<br />

foreign policy background to shore up his own record.<br />

Democrats applauded his pick of Biden as one that balanced<br />

the ticket and showcased Obama’s own judgment and<br />

decision-making skills. They had barely finished cheering<br />

their new nominee, however, when John McCain upstaged<br />

Obama with his own pick, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who<br />

he felt would bolster his maverick credentials, help him<br />

energize his base, and bolster his standing with women. The<br />

choice was immediately controversial; wildly popular with<br />

religious conservatives, it was viewed with surprise and<br />

skepticism by Democrats and media commentators.<br />

There is no clear evidence that the vice presidential<br />

choice has significant electoral consequences, but the<br />

presidential nominees weigh it carefully nonetheless. If<br />

nothing else, the caliber of the nominee’s choice for vice<br />

president is held to be an indication of the kind of<br />

Running Mate<br />

Scorecard<br />

Horserace Politics<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 529


Improv at the Convention<br />

In one of the more puzzling moments of the 2012 campaign, Clint Eastwood<br />

engaged an empty chair during prime time at the Republican National<br />

Convention, pretending it was President Obama and lecturing it for what<br />

he perceived as the inadequacies of Obama’s presidency. Eastwood<br />

had given some very effective speeches for Romney in the past, and the<br />

campaign assumed he would do the same thing again. Instead, the star<br />

saw the chair backstage as he was preparing to speak and was inspired<br />

to do a bit of eccentric improv that will go down as campaign legend. The<br />

performance prompted Obama to tweet a picture of his cabinet room chair<br />

labeled “The President” with the caption “This seat’s taken.”<br />

appointments the nominee would make if elected. Although<br />

McCain’s pick of Palin as his running mate was popular<br />

initially, with 20 percent more of the public having positive<br />

than negative feelings toward her, a cascade of bad news<br />

stories about her soon engulfed the McCain campaign. By the<br />

time of the election, Palin’s negatives were 7 percent higher<br />

than her positives. This all rebounded on the campaign amid<br />

charges that McCain could hardly have been following his<br />

slogan of “putting country first” with such a selection.<br />

In 2012 Mitt Romney also stepped on his own campaign<br />

message a bit, with his pick of Wisconsin congressman Paul<br />

The Undecided Voter<br />

Ryan. Throughout the primary season, Romney had<br />

emphasized his business credentials as his major qualification<br />

for office, claiming that a president should have private sector<br />

experience. In choosing Ryan, who had no such experience,<br />

he, like McCain, was forced to alter his message. Nonetheless,<br />

Ryan was a popular choice with the Republican base and<br />

helped to fill a hole in Romney’s own resume by putting<br />

someone with Tea Party credentials on the ticket.<br />

Although their party business is limited, the conventions<br />

still provide the nominee with a “convention bump” in the<br />

polls. The harmonious coverage, the enthusiasm of party<br />

supporters, and even the staged theatrics seem to have a<br />

positive impact on viewers. The result is that candidates have<br />

usually, though not always, experienced a noticeable rise in the<br />

polls immediately following the conventions. Both Obama and<br />

McCain received bounces from their conventions in 2008,<br />

though McCain’s was slightly larger. McCain briefly achieved a<br />

lead in the polls after his convention, but the negative publicity<br />

surrounding Palin and then the economic crisis that began in<br />

mid-September put Obama back on top, where he stayed until<br />

the election. Following the 2012 conventions, Romney gained<br />

a small bump that was quickly lost in the larger bounce for<br />

Obama that followed the Democratic convention. Media<br />

coverage of the Republican convention was dominated by odd<br />

moments such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s keynote<br />

address, which neglected to mention Romney until 18 minutes<br />

in, and Clint Eastwood’s turn of improv. The Democrats, on the<br />

other hand, rallied around an epic speech by Bill Clinton that<br />

energized the party, even though Obama’s own speech was<br />

seen as a more somber moment.<br />

The General Election Campaign<br />

After the candidates are nominated in late summer, there is a<br />

short break, at least for the public, before the traditional fall<br />

campaign. When the campaign begins, the goal of each side is<br />

to convince supporters to turn out and to get undecided voters<br />

to choose its candidate. Most voters, the party identifiers, will<br />

usually support their party’s candidate, although they need<br />

to be motivated by the campaign to turn out and cast their<br />

ballots. Most of the battle in a presidential campaign is for the<br />

swing voters, the one-third or so of the electorate who have<br />

not made up their minds at the start of the campaign and who<br />

are open to persuasion by either side. As one would expect<br />

given the forces described in <strong>Chapter</strong> 12 (see Figure 12.3, page<br />

441), this means that for both parties, the general election<br />

strategy differs considerably from the strategy used to win a<br />

primary election. Traditionally the logic has been that to win<br />

the general election, the campaigns move away from the sharp<br />

ideological tone used to motivate the party faithful in the<br />

swing voters the approximately one-third of the electorate who<br />

are undecided at the start of a campaign<br />

530 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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primaries and “run to the middle” by making less ideological<br />

appeals. However, in this era of polarized parties, especially<br />

since the second George W. Bush campaign, the tendency<br />

has been for a campaign to stay with the party’s ideological<br />

message, putting at least as much emphasis on mobilizing its<br />

base as appealing to independents and uncommitted voters.<br />

Besides keeping the parties’ bases involved, staying with more<br />

ideological appeals can help candidates avoid being charged<br />

with “flip-flopping” on the issues.<br />

In the general campaign, each side seeks to get its<br />

message across, to define the choice in terms that give its<br />

candidate the advantage. This massive effort to influence the<br />

information to which citizens are exposed requires a clear<br />

strategy, which begins with a plan for winning the states<br />

where the candidate will be competitive.<br />

The Electoral College<br />

The presidential election is not a national race; it is a race<br />

between the candidates in each of the fifty states and the<br />

District of Columbia (see “Who Are We Red Versus Blue<br />

States”). The reasons for the Electoral College’s existence<br />

may seem outdated sometimes, but it nevertheless drives<br />

campaign strategy. Because our founders feared giving too<br />

much power to the volatile electorate, we do not actually vote<br />

for the president and vice president in presidential elections.<br />

Rather, we cast our votes in November for electors (members<br />

of the Electoral College), who in turn vote for the president<br />

in December. The Constitution provides for each state to have<br />

as many electoral votes as it does senators and representatives<br />

in Congress. Thus Alaska has three electoral votes (one for<br />

each of the state’s U.S. senators and one for its sole member<br />

of the House of Representatives). By contrast, California<br />

has fifty-five electoral votes (two senators and fifty-three<br />

representatives). In addition, the Twenty-third Amendment<br />

gave the District of Columbia three electoral votes. There<br />

are 538 electoral votes in all; 270 are needed to win the<br />

presidency. Figure 14.3 shows the distribution of electoral<br />

votes among the states today.<br />

Electors are generally activist members of the party whose<br />

presidential candidate carried the state. In December, following<br />

the election, the electors meet and vote in their state capitals.<br />

In the vast majority of cases, they vote as expected, but there<br />

are occasional “faithless electors” who vote for their own<br />

preferences. The results of the electors’ choices in the states are<br />

then sent to the Senate, where the ballots are counted when<br />

the new session opens. If no candidate achieves a majority in<br />

the Electoral College, the Constitution calls for the House of<br />

Representatives to choose from the top three electoral vote<br />

winners. In this process, each state has one vote. If the vote<br />

goes to the House, then the Senate decides on the vice<br />

president, with each senator having a vote. This has happened<br />

only twice (the last time was in 1824), although some<br />

observers of the 2000 election speculated that that election,<br />

too, could have been decided in the House of Representatives<br />

if Florida’s election had not been decided in the courts.<br />

The importance of the Electoral College is that all the<br />

states but Maine and Nebraska operate on a winner-take-all<br />

basis. Thus the winner in California, even if he or she has less<br />

than a majority of the popular vote, wins all of the state’s fiftyfive<br />

electoral votes. The loser in California may have won 49<br />

percent of the popular vote but gets nothing in the Electoral<br />

College. It is possible, then, for the popular vote winner to lose<br />

in the Electoral College. This has happened only three times in<br />

our history, most recently in 2000, when Bush received an<br />

Electoral College majority even though Gore won the popular<br />

vote by more than half a million votes. Usually, however, the<br />

opposite happens: the Electoral College exaggerates the<br />

candidate’s apparent majority. The 2012 election is typical of<br />

this exaggeration of the victory margin in the Electoral College.<br />

Obama got more than 51 percent of the two-party popular<br />

vote, but his majority in the Electoral College was 61.7<br />

percent. This exaggeration of the winning margin has the effect<br />

of legitimizing the winner’s victory and allowing him to claim<br />

that he has a mandate—a broad popular endorsement—even if<br />

he won by a smaller margin of the popular vote.<br />

The rules of the Electoral College give greater power to<br />

some states over others. The provision that all states get at least<br />

three electoral votes in the Electoral College means that citizens<br />

in the smaller-population states get proportionately greater<br />

representation in the Electoral College. Alaska, for example, sent<br />

one elector to the Electoral College for every 240,000 people,<br />

while California had one elector for every 679,000 residents.<br />

However, this “advantage” is probably offset by the<br />

practice of winner-take-all, which focuses the candidates’<br />

attention on the largest states with the biggest payoffs in<br />

electoral votes, especially the competitive, or “battleground,”<br />

states. Small states with few electoral votes or those that are<br />

safely in the corner of one party or the other are ignored<br />

(although California, a reliably Democratic state, still<br />

received twenty-two visits by the Romney campaign, twenty<br />

of which were for fundraising). 78 Perennial battlegrounds get<br />

the most candidate attention. Ohio was the primary focus in<br />

2012 (as it usually is) and saw a total of 148 visits by the<br />

candidates and their wives (68 for the Obama campaign, and<br />

80 for the Romney campaign; of those visits, only a total of 7<br />

involved fundraising). Campaign spending figures tell the<br />

same story of unequal activity: our largest state of California<br />

saw the campaigns spend a total of $320 (two ads in tiny<br />

media markets), whereas in competitive Florida they spent<br />

$173 million on television ads ($78 million by the Obama<br />

campaign and $95 million by the Romney campaign). 79<br />

Over the years, hundreds of bills have been introduced in<br />

Congress to reform or abolish the Electoral College, an<br />

Electoral College 101<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 531


Figure 14.3<br />

Electoral College in 2012<br />

This distorted map, in which the states are sized according to their number of electoral votes, demonstrates the electoral power of<br />

the more populous states. Total electoral votes = 538.<br />

CA 55<br />

AK 3<br />

WA 12<br />

OR 7<br />

NV 6<br />

ID<br />

4<br />

VT 3 NH 4<br />

MA 11<br />

NY 29<br />

CT RI<br />

7 4<br />

WI 10 MI 16<br />

MT ND MN<br />

3 3 10<br />

SD<br />

WY 3NE IA<br />

PA 20<br />

3 6<br />

5<br />

IL IN OH 18<br />

20 11<br />

NJ 14<br />

MD 10<br />

WV<br />

UT CO KS MO<br />

5 DC 3<br />

6 9 6 10<br />

DE 3<br />

KY 8 VA 13<br />

OK 7<br />

AR 6 TN 11<br />

NC 15<br />

AZ 11<br />

NM 5<br />

TX 38<br />

LA 8<br />

MS 6<br />

AL<br />

9<br />

GA<br />

16<br />

SC 9<br />

ME 4<br />

HI 4<br />

FL 29<br />

especially urgent project for many Democrats after the 2000 fig 14.3<br />

election. 80 Major criticisms of the current system include the<br />

following:<br />

• The Electoral College is undemocratic because it is<br />

possible for the popular winner not to get a majority<br />

of the electoral votes.<br />

• In a very close contest, the popular outcome could be<br />

dictated by a few “faithless electors” who vote their<br />

consciences rather than the will of the people of their<br />

states.<br />

• The Electoral College distorts candidates’ campaign<br />

strategies. The winner-take-all provision in all but<br />

two states puts a premium on a few large, competitive<br />

states, which get a disproportionate share of the<br />

candidates’ attention.<br />

National Popular Vote<br />

Few people deny the truth of these charges, and hardly<br />

anyone believes that if we were to start all over, the current<br />

Electoral College would be chosen as the best way to elect a<br />

president. Nevertheless, all the proposed alternatives also<br />

have problems, or at least serious criticisms.<br />

Critics of this view point out that in 2004 the winning<br />

candidate got less than 55 percent of the vote in twenty-four<br />

of the fifty states, so we are not as divided as the conventional<br />

map makes us seem.<br />

In 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama turned the conventional<br />

wisdom about red and blue America on its head. While the<br />

states of the deep South and some of the western states stayed<br />

red, Obama targeted and won states that Democrats rarely<br />

carry, chalking up victories in Indiana, Virginia, North<br />

Carolina, Florida, and Nevada in 2008, and losing only two of<br />

those, Indiana and North Carolina, in 2012. Demographic<br />

changes in those states make them potentially more favorable<br />

territory for Democrats. Fearing that the future electoral math<br />

is going to work against them, Republicans in some blue states<br />

such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have begun to talk about<br />

dividing up their electoral college votes by congressional<br />

district, such as Maine and Nebraska.<br />

532 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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• Who Are We Red versus blue states<br />

Election Results, 2012<br />

WA<br />

OR<br />

ID<br />

NV<br />

UT<br />

CA<br />

AZ<br />

AK<br />

MT<br />

WY<br />

CO<br />

NM<br />

HI<br />

ND<br />

SD<br />

NE<br />

KS<br />

TX<br />

MN<br />

WI<br />

IA<br />

IL<br />

MO<br />

OK AR<br />

MS<br />

LA<br />

MI<br />

IN<br />

TN<br />

AL<br />

KY<br />

OH<br />

WV<br />

GA<br />

SC<br />

FL<br />

PA<br />

MD<br />

VA<br />

NC<br />

NY<br />

VT<br />

ME<br />

NH<br />

MA<br />

RI<br />

CT<br />

NJ<br />

DE<br />

DC<br />

Source: “Obama’s Path to Victory,” <strong>CQ</strong> Weekly, Nov. 12, 2012, p. 2207.<br />

A More Nuanced <strong>View</strong><br />

fig WAW 14.2.a<br />

Source: Copyright 2012 IDV Solutions, LLC created by John Nelson.<br />

Behind the Numbers<br />

In our Electoral College system, presidential elections are won state<br />

by state. In election night coverage, the networks light up the states<br />

as red as they go for the Republican candidate and blue as they<br />

go for the Democrat. Because support for Republicans in the past<br />

several elections has tended to come from the southern and Plains<br />

states, and the Democrats have been successful in the coastal and<br />

upper Midwest regions, it has become popular to speak of a red and<br />

blue America—an America closely but irreconcilably split between<br />

conservative and liberal states. Are we really red and blue, or are<br />

there parts of America that are more properly understood as purple,<br />

as the second, county by county map here suggests<br />

The 2012 Election<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 533


• Profiles in Citizenship<br />

James Carville<br />

James Carville found his calling and his<br />

salvation in his love affair with politics.<br />

“You know, I was never that great<br />

at anything,” he says in that manic<br />

Louisiana drawl familiar to anyone who<br />

has watched the movie The War Room or<br />

seen him on CNN. “The only thing I was<br />

great at was being kind of, you know,<br />

a horrible student—a worse than bad<br />

lawyer. I sat in my office one day and<br />

said if I had to hire a lawyer I wouldn’t<br />

hire me.”<br />

But the man loved politics—had done so<br />

since he was a kid, when larger-than-life<br />

figures walked the Louisiana landscape<br />

of his youth, people like Gov. Earl Long<br />

(“There’s a great man! He’s my guy!”)<br />

and characters called “Pinhead Willie,”<br />

“Coozan Dud,” and “Wild Bill, Big Bad Bill<br />

Dodd.” Ask him if politics was a big deal<br />

in his family when he was growing up in<br />

Carville, Louisiana (a town named for his<br />

postmaster grandfather), and he gives a<br />

single-word answer: “Huge.”<br />

So politics was the path he chose to get<br />

himself away from lawyering. He set up<br />

shop as a political consultant, finding the<br />

pace of electoral politics perfectly suited<br />

to his personal occupational challenges<br />

(“I have pretty serious attention problems<br />

and dyslexia and the whole dictionary<br />

of fashionable childhood diseases”).<br />

It was a life made to measure for him:<br />

“You’re really determining something<br />

that profoundly matters to people all<br />

across the spectrum and it’s something<br />

that, if you’re like me and you’ve got a lot<br />

of energy left over—if you’re a sprinter,<br />

not a distance runner—it’s perfect. And<br />

you know at the end of the day if you’ve<br />

won or lost. How can you beat it There’s<br />

nothing that could be more fun.”<br />

With his brilliant mind and intuitive<br />

understanding of politics, Carville<br />

ran a couple of winning Pennsylvania<br />

campaigns and caught the attention<br />

of Bill Clinton in his 1992 run for the<br />

presidency. Carville headed up the Little<br />

Rock “War Room” and kept attention<br />

focused on the campaign’s famous<br />

mantra—“It’s the Economy, Stupid.” Of<br />

course, Clinton won—and now Carville<br />

was at the top of his game. “And there<br />

was a time—it certainly passed—there<br />

was a time in my life where if I had to<br />

hire a political consultant I would have<br />

hired me. Now that’s a great feeling. . . .<br />

And it was particularly great on the<br />

heels of knowing that I was a bad<br />

lawyer. It’s not a very satisfying way to<br />

go through life, being bad and not liking<br />

what you do.”<br />

Carville’s life must be superbly satisfying<br />

now. No longer running campaigns (he<br />

says he has become a victim of his own<br />

success, drawing more attention than the<br />

candidates he would work for), he is still<br />

active in the Democratic Party, appearing<br />

frequently as a commentator on<br />

television and with his wife, Republican<br />

Mary Matalin, on the lecture circuit.<br />

Matalin was working for the first<br />

president Bush when she and Carville met<br />

(they ran opposing campaigns in 1992),<br />

and she has worked for Vice President<br />

Dick Cheney and other Republicans since<br />

that time. If you think “politics makes<br />

strange bedfellows,” read their book, All’s<br />

Fair: Love, War, and Running for President,<br />

Who Runs the Campaign<br />

Running a modern presidential campaign has become a<br />

highly specialized profession. Most presidential campaigns<br />

are led by an “amateur,” a nationally prestigious chairperson<br />

who may serve as an adviser and assist in fundraising.<br />

However, the real work of the campaign is done by the<br />

professional staff the candidate hires, and who themselves<br />

become important figures not only in the campaigns but<br />

often in the administrations as advisers and, later, as political<br />

The Audacity to Win<br />

commentators. For example, James Carville, Bill Clinton’s<br />

campaign strategist (see the Profiles in Citizenship feature),<br />

continues to appear frequently on television as a campaign<br />

commentator, as has Karl Rove, who ran both of George W.<br />

Bush’s successful campaigns and worked as a policy adviser<br />

in the Bush White House. Obama’s campaign trust included<br />

David Axelrod, who continued as a political adviser in the<br />

White House; Robert Gibbs, who took the job as Obama’s first<br />

press secretary; and David Plouffe, who served as the 2008<br />

Obama campaign manager and then White House adviser.<br />

Jim Messina, an Obama White House staffer, joined on as<br />

campaign manager in 2012. Campaign work at the beginning<br />

of the twenty-first century is big business.<br />

534 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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“. . . don’t confuse the right to do something with the right thing to do.”<br />

to see just how strange. With the highoctane<br />

life their parents lead, it would<br />

seem that politics could hardly help being<br />

as “huge” for their two kids as it was<br />

for Carville (although he says since it’s<br />

“the family business,” they are not too<br />

impressed).<br />

But it’s hard to imagine that they will<br />

remain wholly unmoved by their father’s<br />

powerful feelings about politics. Nobody<br />

could be. Leafing through a book of<br />

photographs of his beloved Louisiana,<br />

Carville talks about politics with the<br />

passion and reverence of a man recalling<br />

a first love. His voice gets hushed with<br />

the intensity of his memories, reading<br />

passages out loud and getting so eager to<br />

share the stories that he impulsively gives<br />

us the book to keep.<br />

Impulsive and emotional Carville may<br />

be, but when it comes to assessing the<br />

day-to-day stakes of politics, he is a<br />

sharp-eyed realist. He knows powerful<br />

people would prefer us to check out<br />

and let them have their way. “All these<br />

decisions are going to get made—<br />

doesn’t matter whether you’re involved<br />

in them,” he says. “The school’s going<br />

to go on, somebody’s going to have the<br />

hiring policy, somebody’s going to decide<br />

the curriculum, the hospitals are going<br />

to get built, somebody’s going to have to<br />

decide where they are, who gets served,<br />

etc., etc. . . . the taxes are going to get<br />

collected. Whatever. Okay. Now what a<br />

lot of powerful people would like to tell<br />

you is, you don’t worry your pretty little<br />

head with that. We’ll take care of all<br />

these things and you don’t need to, you<br />

know, you just have a couple of beers and<br />

eat some Doritos and watch the game.”<br />

He is amazed that people fall for the idea<br />

that they can’t figure out complex issues.<br />

“None of this stuff is impenetrable. The<br />

only way that the political golden rule<br />

operates—that those who have got the<br />

gold make the rules—is if it’s by default,”<br />

that is, if people fail to pay attention.<br />

More Carville wisdom:<br />

On why politics matters:<br />

There’s a lot of things you can say about<br />

politics and politicians . . . some are<br />

corrupt and some are liars . . . but the<br />

one thing you can’t say is that what they<br />

do doesn’t matter. Because it matters<br />

profoundly. From where you put the<br />

intersection, to the park, to the taxes,<br />

to the bonds, you name it. Abortion,<br />

euthanasia, it doesn’t matter. On a<br />

sliding scale of does the bridge get built or<br />

not, all of this is decided by politicians. So<br />

every criticism that a young person has of<br />

politics is valid until they get to the point<br />

that it doesn’t matter. Then that’s where<br />

the whole argument completely falls<br />

apart. Right on its face.<br />

On keeping the republic:<br />

The first thing we need to do is remove this<br />

thing that participating in public affairs in<br />

whatever form you want to is some kind<br />

of chore. I don’t think it really is. I think<br />

it’s kind of a privilege and it’s fun. . . . I<br />

tell young people you have the right not<br />

to participate, but don’t confuse the right<br />

to do something with the right thing to<br />

do. They are two distinct things. I think<br />

the biggest thing that young people can<br />

do is, when it comes to this, be guided by<br />

your passion. . . . It’s a hell of a lot of fun.<br />

And it’s a really fascinating thing. And you<br />

learn a lot. But the biggest thing you do is<br />

you actually get to make a difference. •<br />

Some of the jobs include not only the well-known ones<br />

of campaign manager and strategist but also more specialized<br />

components tailored to the modern campaign’s emphasis on<br />

information and money. For instance, candidates need to hire<br />

research teams to prepare position papers on issues so that the<br />

candidate can answer any question posed by potential<br />

supporters and the media. But researchers also engage in the<br />

controversial but necessary task of oppo research—delving<br />

into the background and vulnerabilities of the opposing<br />

oppo research investigation of an opponent’s background for the<br />

purpose of exploiting weaknesses or undermining credibility<br />

candidate with an eye to exploiting his or her weaknesses.<br />

Central to the modern campaign’s efforts to get and control<br />

the flow of information are pollsters and focus group<br />

administrators, who are critical for testing the public’s<br />

reactions to issues and strategies. Media consultants try to get<br />

free coverage of the campaign whenever possible, and to make<br />

the best use of the campaign’s advertising dollars by designing<br />

commercials and print advertisements.<br />

Candidates also need advance teams to plan and prepare<br />

their travel agendas, to arrange for crowds (and the signs they<br />

wave) to greet the candidates at airports, and even to reserve<br />

accommodations for the press. Especially in the primaries,<br />

staff devoted to fundraising are essential to ensure the<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 535


constant flow of money necessary to grease the wheels of any<br />

presidential campaign. They work with big donors and<br />

engage in direct-mail and Internet campaigns to solicit money<br />

from targeted groups. Much of the success of the Obama<br />

campaign rested on its effectiveness at communicating with<br />

and mobilizing its supporters electronically. Assisted by Mark<br />

Zuckerberg, the inventor of Facebook, among others, the<br />

Obama campaign raised more money and had many more<br />

volunteers than its competitor campaigns, which did not<br />

benefit from such skilled use of the Internet. 81<br />

Finally, of course, candidates need to hire a legal team to<br />

keep their campaigns in compliance with the regulations of<br />

the FEC and to file the required reports. In general, campaign<br />

consultants are able to provide specialized technical services<br />

that the parties’ political committees cannot. 82<br />

Presenting the Candidate<br />

An effective campaign begins with a clear understanding of<br />

how the candidate’s strengths fit with the context of the times<br />

and the mood of the voters. To sell a candidate effectively, the<br />

claims to special knowledge, competence, or commitment<br />

must be credible. 83 In 1992 the Clinton campaign contrasted<br />

its candidate’s fresh, young, energetic image with the public’s<br />

perceptions of the incumbent, President George H. W. Bush, as<br />

lacking a clear policy direction or vision. The Clinton campaign<br />

headquarters (which staffers called “The War Room”)<br />

prominently displayed a sign—“It’s the Economy, Stupid”—to<br />

help keep the campaign on track. In 2000 and 2004, George<br />

W. Bush’s campaign staff were able to portray him as an<br />

effective “decider” as opposed to the more ineffective and flipflopping<br />

images they created of Al Gore and John Kerry.<br />

The 2008 Obama presidential campaign is considered by<br />

many observers to be one of the best-run campaigns in<br />

modern American politics. It paired near complete message<br />

control with an unprecedented use of technology and a<br />

massive and very well-organized volunteer component. The<br />

campaign capitalized on a national weariness with the Bush<br />

years and crafted a campaign theme emphasizing change that<br />

was well suited to Obama’s apparent competence, his skills as a<br />

speaker, and his relative outsider status (he had served only two<br />

years in the U.S. Senate when he decided to run for president).<br />

He highlighted his change theme by continually linking<br />

McCain to the unpopular Bush administration and its policies,<br />

arguing that McCain was running for Bush’s third term.<br />

In 2012 the Obama campaign again won plaudits for its<br />

organization and excellent technological innovation.<br />

Sometimes lost in the general awe of the data-crunching and<br />

get-out-the-vote operation is the strategic effort the campaign<br />

made early on to frame the election as a choice between two<br />

It’s the Economy, Stupid Oppo Depot<br />

candidates offering very different visions for America rather<br />

than as a referendum on the president. Given slow economic<br />

growth and the Republicans’ success in denying the president<br />

any legislative victories in the two years preceding the<br />

election, the campaign felt it would lose the latter, so as soon<br />

as the campaign was sure that Romney would be the<br />

Republican nominee, it began to define him as a wealthy<br />

plutocrat out of touch with middle-class American concerns.<br />

Inexplicably, the Romney campaign let the Obama campaign<br />

have the stage to itself in the summer before the election. By<br />

the time Romney’s campaign began to introduce Romney as it<br />

wanted voters to see him, as a bipartisan economic problem<br />

solver, it was too late. Many voters’ perceptions were locked<br />

in, and the release of the tape with Romney’s “47 percent”<br />

comments only reinforced them.<br />

As the campaigns struggle to control the flow of<br />

information about their candidates and influence how voters<br />

see their opponent, oppo research comes into play, sometimes<br />

complete with focus groups and poll testing. In fact, oppo<br />

research has become a central component in all elections,<br />

contributing to the negative campaigning so prevalent in<br />

recent years. 84 Astute candidates also have oppo research done<br />

on themselves; knowing that their opponent will be studying<br />

them, they work to be prepared to deal with attacks that<br />

might be coming. With his checkered youth in mind, Texas<br />

governor George W. Bush hired people to do oppo research on<br />

him twice during his runs for governor. The benign results<br />

then convinced him later that he had nothing to fear from the<br />

close scrutiny of a national campaign.<br />

The Issues<br />

Earlier we indicated that issues matter to voters as they decide<br />

how to vote. This means that issues must be central to the<br />

candidate’s strategy for getting elected. From the candidate’s<br />

point of view, there are two kinds of issues to consider when<br />

planning a strategy: valence issues and position issues.<br />

Valence issues are policy matters on which the voters<br />

and the candidates share the same preference. These are what<br />

we might call “motherhood and apple pie” issues, because no<br />

one opposes them. Everyone is for a strong, prosperous<br />

economy; for America having a respected leadership role in<br />

the world; for fighting terrorism; for thrift in government;<br />

and for a clean environment. Similarly, everyone opposes<br />

crime and drug abuse, government waste, political<br />

corruption, and immorality.<br />

Position issues have two sides. On abortion, there are<br />

those who are anti-abortion and those who are pro-choice. On<br />

valence issues issues on which most voters and candidates share<br />

the same position<br />

position issues issues on which the parties differ in their<br />

perspectives and proposed solutions<br />

536 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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military engagements such as Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan,<br />

there are those who favor pursuing a military victory and<br />

those who favor just getting out. Many of the hardest decisions<br />

for candidates are on position issues—although a clear stand<br />

means that they will gain some friends, it also guarantees that<br />

they will make some enemies. Realistic candidates who want<br />

to win as many votes as possible try to avoid being clearly<br />

identified with the losing side of important position issues.<br />

For instance, activists in the Republican Party fought to keep<br />

their strong pro-life plank in the party platform in 2000.<br />

However, because a majority of the electorate is opposed to<br />

the strong pro-life position, George W. Bush seldom<br />

mentioned the issue during the campaign, even though one of<br />

his first acts as president was to cut federal funding to overseas<br />

groups that provide abortions or abortion counseling. John<br />

McCain, needing to solidify his Republican base in 2008, was<br />

more explicit about his party’s pro-life stance, and it appeared<br />

to cost him with independent voters, as it did with Mitt<br />

Romney in 2012. When two Republican senate candidates<br />

made news by arguing that abortion should not be legal even<br />

in the case of rape, President Obama was able to paint Romney<br />

as extreme on the issue by association.<br />

When a candidate or party does take a stand on a<br />

difficult position issue, the other side often uses it against<br />

them as a wedge issue. A wedge issue is a position issue on<br />

which the parties differ and that proves controversial within<br />

the ranks of a particular party. For a Republican, an anti–<br />

affirmative action position is not dangerous, since few<br />

Republicans actively support affirmative action. For a<br />

Democrat, though, it is a very dicey issue, because liberal<br />

party members endorse it but more moderate members do<br />

not. An astute strategy for a Republican candidate is to raise<br />

the issue in a campaign, hoping to drive a wedge between the<br />

Democrats and to recruit to his or her side the Democratic<br />

opponents of affirmative action.<br />

The idea of issue ownership helps to clarify the role of<br />

policy issues in presidential campaigns. Because of their past<br />

stands and performance, each of the parties is widely<br />

perceived as better able to handle certain kinds of problems.<br />

For instance, the Democrats may be seen as better able to deal<br />

with education matters, and the Republicans as more effective<br />

at solving crime-related problems. The voter’s job then is not<br />

so much to evaluate positions on education and crime, but<br />

rather to decide which problem is more important. If<br />

education is pressing, a voter might go with the Democratic<br />

candidate; if crime is more important, the voter might choose<br />

the Republican. 85 From the candidate’s point of view, the trick<br />

wedge issue a controversial issue that one party uses to split the<br />

voters in the other party<br />

issue ownership the tendency of one party to be seen as more<br />

competent in a specific policy area<br />

Bringing Women’s Issues to the Fore<br />

Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, whom Rush Limbaugh<br />

called a “slut” after her testimony to congressional Democrats in<br />

support of the Obama administration’s policy of having health insurers<br />

provide no-cost contraceptive care, campaigns with President Obama<br />

in Denver, Colorado, in August 2012. With conservative initiatives in<br />

several states seeking to limit women’s access to birth control and<br />

abortion services, Democrats seized on women’s health issues as a<br />

major theme of the Obama reelection strategy.<br />

is to convince voters that the election is about the issues that<br />

his or her party “owns.”<br />

An example of how issue ownership operated in the<br />

2008 presidential election can be seen in exit poll data. Voters<br />

were asked which of five issues was the most important facing<br />

the country. Three of those issues worked to the advantage of<br />

Barack Obama. Two of them—the economy and health care—<br />

are Democratic-owned issues, and Obama received clear<br />

majorities on both. John McCain owned just one issue,<br />

terrorism. Unfortunately for McCain, only 9 percent of the<br />

electorate felt that was the most important issue. We might<br />

have suspected that McCain would also command an<br />

advantage on the war in Iraq issue, but by 2008 the war was<br />

relatively unpopular and Obama had initially claimed<br />

attention in the Democratic field by being an early critic of the<br />

war, and thus got the support of most of these voters. What is<br />

clear is that Obama benefited electorally from the economic<br />

crisis that directed voters’ attention to that issue.<br />

Because valence issues are relatively safe, candidates<br />

stress them at every opportunity. They also focus on the<br />

position issues that their parties “own” or on which they<br />

Affirmative Action<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 537


• Don’t Be Fooled by . . . Campaign Advertising<br />

“Long History” of Attack Ads<br />

Candidates on both sides use negative ads to paint their opponents in an unfavorable light. In<br />

2012 the Romney campaign’s “Long History” ad painted President Barack Obama as unfavorable<br />

to the welfare reforms enacted during the Clinton administration, claims that fact checkers said<br />

were false.<br />

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,”<br />

goes the old childhood rhyme, “but<br />

words can never hurt me.” Try telling<br />

Ad Attack Hall of Fame<br />

that to the innumerable targets of<br />

negative advertising, sloganeering that<br />

emphasizes the negative characteristics<br />

of one’s opponents rather than one’s<br />

own strengths. Negative advertising<br />

has characterized American election<br />

campaigns since the days of George<br />

Washington. George Washington His<br />

opponents called him a “dictator” who<br />

would “debauch the nation.” 1 Thomas<br />

Jefferson was accused of having an<br />

affair with a slave, a controversy that<br />

has outlived any of the people involved;<br />

Abraham Lincoln was claimed to have<br />

had an illegitimate child; and Grover<br />

Cleveland, who admitted to fathering a<br />

child out of wedlock, was taunted with<br />

the words, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa” 2 (His<br />

supporters had the last laugh, however:<br />

“Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”)<br />

Like it or not (and most Americans say<br />

they do not), the truth is that negative<br />

campaign advertising works, and in the<br />

television age it is far more prevalent<br />

than anything that plagued Washington,<br />

Jefferson, Lincoln, or Cleveland. People<br />

remember it better than they do positive<br />

advertising; tracking polls show that after<br />

a voter has seen a negative ad eight times,<br />

he or she begins to move away from the<br />

attacked candidate. 3 Some candidates<br />

have majority support. What this suggests is that the real<br />

campaign is not about debating positions on issues—how to<br />

reduce the deficit or whether to restrict abortion—but about<br />

which issues should be considered. Issue campaigning is to a<br />

large extent about setting the agenda.<br />

The Media<br />

It is impossible to understand the modern political<br />

campaign without appreciating the pervasive role of the<br />

media. Even though many voters tend to ignore campaign<br />

ads—or at least they tell survey interviewers that they<br />

do—we know that campaign advertising matters. It has<br />

Presidential Campaign<br />

Ad Database<br />

increased dramatically with the rise of television as people’s<br />

information source of choice. Studies show that advertising<br />

provides usable information for voters. Political ads can<br />

heighten the loyalty of existing supporters, and they can<br />

educate the public about what candidates stand for and<br />

what issues candidates believe are most important. Ads also<br />

can be effective in establishing the criteria on which voters<br />

choose between candidates.<br />

One of the best examples of this effective advertising<br />

came from the 1988 presidential campaign. Because George<br />

H. W. Bush was behind in the polls and perceived as not<br />

very sympathetic to average citizens, his campaign sought to<br />

change the way people were thinking about him and his<br />

opponent, Michael Dukakis. The campaign came up with an<br />

effective ad showing criminals walking in and out of a<br />

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claim that their advertising is not really<br />

negative but rather “comparative,” and<br />

indeed a candidate often needs to compare<br />

his or her record with another’s in order to<br />

make the case that he or she is the superior<br />

choice. Negative advertising is nonetheless<br />

unpopular with voters, who often see it as<br />

nasty, unfair, and false. In fact, advertising<br />

that is proved to be false can frequently<br />

backfire on the person doing the advertising.<br />

WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR<br />

How is a savvy media consumer to know<br />

what to believe Be careful, be critical,<br />

and be fair in how you interpret campaign<br />

ads. Here are some tips. Ask yourself<br />

these questions:<br />

• Who is running the ad What do<br />

they have to gain by it Look to see<br />

who has paid for the ad. Is it the<br />

opponent’s campaign An interest<br />

group A political action committee<br />

(PAC) or a 527 group What do they<br />

have at stake, and how might that<br />

affect their charges If the ad’s<br />

sponsors do not identify themselves,<br />

what might that tell you about the<br />

source of the information About the<br />

information itself<br />

• Are the accusations relevant to the<br />

campaign or the office in question<br />

If character is a legitimate issue,<br />

questions of adultery or drug use<br />

might have bearing on the election. If<br />

not, they might just be personal<br />

details used to smear this candidate’s<br />

reputation. Ask yourself, What kind of<br />

person should hold the job What kinds<br />

of qualities are important<br />

• Is the accusation or attack timely If<br />

a person is accused of youthful<br />

experimentation with drugs or<br />

indiscreet behavior in his or her twenties<br />

but has been an upstanding lawyer and<br />

public servant for twenty-five years, do<br />

the accusations have bearing on how<br />

the candidate will do the job<br />

• Does the ad convey a fair charge<br />

that can be answered, or does it<br />

evoke unarticulated fears and<br />

emotions A 1964 ad for Lyndon<br />

Johnson’s presidential campaign<br />

showed a little girl counting as she<br />

plucked petals from a daisy. An adult<br />

male voice gradually replaced hers,<br />

counting down to an explosion of a<br />

mushroom cloud that obliterated the<br />

picture. The daisy commercial never<br />

even mentioned Johnson’s opponent,<br />

Barry Goldwater, though the clear<br />

implication was that the conservative,<br />

promilitary Goldwater was likely to<br />

lead the nation to a nuclear war. Amid<br />

cries of “Foul!” from Goldwater’s<br />

Republican supporters, the ad was<br />

aired only once, but it became a classic<br />

example of the sort of ad that seeks to<br />

play on the fears of its viewers.<br />

• Is the ad true FactCheck.org, a<br />

project of the Annenberg Public Policy<br />

Center, is an excellent resource for<br />

monitoring factual accuracy in<br />

campaign ads. Other media outlets like<br />

the New York Times will often run “ad<br />

watches” to help viewers determine if<br />

the information in an advertisement is<br />

true. If it is not (and sometimes even if<br />

it is), you can usually count on hearing<br />

a response from the attacked candidate<br />

rebutting the charges. Occasionally<br />

candidates have chosen not to respond,<br />

claiming to take the high road, but as<br />

Michael Dukakis’s dismal performance<br />

in the 1988 election showed, false<br />

attacks left unanswered can be<br />

devastating. Try to conduct your own<br />

“ad watch.” Study the campaign ads<br />

and evaluate their truthfulness.<br />

1. Alexandra Marks, “Backlash Grows Against Negative<br />

Political Ads,” Christian Science Monitor, September 28,<br />

1995, 1.<br />

2. Roger Stone, “Positively Negative,” New York Times,<br />

February 26, 1996, 13.<br />

3. Stone. •<br />

prison through a turnstile. A voice-over claimed that<br />

Dukakis’s “revolving door prison policy” had permitted firstdegree<br />

murderers to leave on weekend furloughs. At the<br />

same time, a pro-Bush group called the National Security<br />

PAC ran the more controversial Willie Horton ad, which<br />

focused on the mug shot of Horton, showing (without saying<br />

so) that he was African American. Implying that Dukakis<br />

bore some responsibility for the events described, the<br />

commercial coolly told how Horton, who was serving a life<br />

sentence for murder, had stabbed a man and raped his<br />

girlfriend while on a weekend pass. 86 The Dukakis campaign<br />

negative advertising campaign advertising that emphasizes<br />

the negative characteristics of opponents rather than one’s own<br />

strengths<br />

failed to respond to this one-two punch, and subsequent<br />

surveys showed that those who saw the commercials came to<br />

think of crime as an important issue in the campaign. Bush’s<br />

standings began to climb, and, of course, he went on to win<br />

the election. 87 (See Don’t Be Fooled by Campaign Advertising for<br />

some advice on how to critically evaluate the political ads<br />

that come your way.) Although negative advertising may<br />

turn off some voters and give the perception that politics is<br />

an unpleasant business, the public accepts accurate attacks on<br />

the issues. As long as it does not go too far, an attack ad that<br />

highlights negative aspects of an opponent’s record actually<br />

registers more quickly and is remembered more frequently<br />

and longer by voters than are positive ads. 88 Experts have<br />

suggested that requiring candidates to appear in their own<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 539


ads would discourage negativity. Negative ads, however,<br />

continue to be the rule, rather than the exception, though<br />

not all candidates resort to them equally. During the heat of<br />

the 2008 campaign, in one week, nearly 100 percent of the<br />

McCain campaign’s ads were negative, compared to 34<br />

percent of Obama’s ads during the same time period. 89<br />

Because paid media coverage is so expensive, a campaign’s<br />

goal is to maximize opportunities for free coverage while<br />

controlling, as much as possible, the kind of coverage it gets. The<br />

major parties’ presidential candidates are accompanied by a<br />

substantial entourage of reporters who need to file stories on a<br />

regular basis, not only for the nation’s major newspapers and<br />

television networks but also to keep reporters and commentators<br />

on the cable news stations like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox busy. These<br />

media have substantial influence in setting the agenda—<br />

determining what issues are important and, hence, which<br />

candidates’ appeals will resonate with voters. 90 As a result, daily<br />

campaign events are planned more for the press and the demands<br />

of the evening news than for the actual in-person audiences, who<br />

often seem to function primarily as a backdrop for the<br />

candidates’ efforts to get favorable airtime each day. The<br />

campaigns also field daily conference calls with reporters to attack<br />

their opponents and defend their candidates and to try to control,<br />

or “spin,” the way they are covered. In the last couple of election<br />

cycles, a strategy for getting on the news without spending a lot<br />

of money has been to produce negative “web ads” designed for<br />

Internet circulation, which, if catchy enough, could get endless<br />

coverage by the networks, the cable stations, and the blogs.<br />

Although the candidates want the regular exposure, they<br />

do not like the norms of broadcast news, which they see as<br />

perpetuating horse-race journalism, focusing on who is ahead<br />

rather than on substantive issues. 91 In addition, the<br />

exhausting nature of campaigns, and the mistakes and gaffes<br />

that follow, are a source of constant concern because of the<br />

media’s tendency to zero in on them and replay them<br />

endlessly. The relationship between the campaigns and the<br />

media is testy. Each side needs the other, but the candidates<br />

want to control the message, and the media want stories that<br />

are “news”—controversies, changes in the candidates’<br />

standings, or stories of goofs and scandals. We discuss the<br />

complex relationship between the media and the candidates<br />

at greater length in <strong>Chapter</strong> 15.<br />

Candidates in recent elections have turned increasingly to<br />

“soft news” and entertainment programming to get their<br />

messages across. Candidates have been especially effective at<br />

appealing across party lines to reach the less engaged voters in<br />

the soft news formats. Many 2008 candidates, including John<br />

McCain, Barack Obama, Ron Paul, and Hillary Clinton,<br />

appeared on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central’s The<br />

Talk Show Appearances<br />

Presidential Politics Enters the Media Age<br />

The first televised debates were held in 1960 between then–vice<br />

president Richard Nixon and the younger and less experienced<br />

Sen. John F. Kennedy. Many people believe that television made the<br />

difference in Kennedy’s razor-thin victory. Kennedy appeared relaxed<br />

and charismatic compared with the brooding Nixon—reinforced by<br />

the latter’s unfortunate five o’clock shadow. Today, the presidential<br />

debates are an expected and anticipated feature of presidential<br />

campaigns.<br />

Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report (even Michelle<br />

Obama made a stop at the latter two). Obama kept up the<br />

tradition in 2012, but Mitt Romney chose to avoid the<br />

informal appearances, playing it safe but missing an<br />

opportunity to show himself in a more relaxed light.<br />

In 2008 the Internet really came into its own as a source<br />

of news. Mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, the<br />

Washington Post, Time magazine, and the major networks<br />

maintained blogs that joined independent bloggers like Josh<br />

Marshall of Talkingpointsmemo.com and National Review<br />

Online in updating campaign news and poll results throughout<br />

the day. And with everyone having a cell phone camera or a<br />

video camera in his or her pocket, YouTube has helped to<br />

transform the electoral landscape as well. A recorded gaffe or<br />

misstatement by a candidate or a campaign surrogate could go<br />

viral—reaching millions of viewers with the quick clicks of<br />

many mouses. Politicians accustomed to a more conventional<br />

way of campaigning were often caught in the YouTube trap.<br />

Bill Clinton, for instance, campaigning for his wife in the<br />

Democratic primary, was several times captured on tape saying<br />

something ill-advised that spread quickly before he could<br />

attempt damage control. Even the media-savvy Obama found a<br />

tape of his words about frustrated voters becoming bitter,<br />

spoken at what he thought was a closed fundraiser, making the<br />

Internet and then the mainstream media rounds at lightning<br />

speed. And as we have seen, in 2012 Mitt Romney was<br />

recorded at a private fundraiser speaking about how 47 percent<br />

of Americans, who pay no taxes, would never vote for him or<br />

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e persuaded to take responsibility for their lives. His poll<br />

numbers dipped after this, and although they improved after<br />

the first debate, he was haunted by the image of being<br />

unsympathetic to the plight of almost half of Americans.<br />

Presidential Debates<br />

Since 1976 the presidential debates have become one of the<br />

major focal points of the campaign. The first televised debate<br />

was held in 1960 between Sen. John F. Kennedy and Vice<br />

President Richard Nixon. The younger and more photogenic<br />

Kennedy came out on top in those televised debates, but<br />

interestingly, those who heard the debates on the radio<br />

thought that Nixon did a better job. 92 In general, leading<br />

candidates find it less in their interest to participate in<br />

debates because they have more to lose and less to win, and<br />

so for years debates took place on a sporadic basis.<br />

More recently, however, media and public pressure have<br />

all but guaranteed that at least the major-party candidates will<br />

participate in debates, although the number, timing, and<br />

format of the debates are renegotiated for each presidential<br />

election season. Recent elections have generated two or three<br />

debates, with a debate among the vice presidential contenders<br />

worked in as well. Third-party candidates, who have the most<br />

to gain from the free media exposure and the legitimacy that<br />

debate participation confers on a campaign, lobby to be<br />

included but rarely are. Ross Perot was invited in 1992<br />

because both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton hoped to<br />

woo his supporters. Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan were shut<br />

out of all three debates in 2000.<br />

Do the debates matter Detailed statistical studies show, not<br />

surprisingly, that many of the debates have been standoffs.<br />

However, some of the debates, especially those identified with<br />

significant candidate errors or positive performances, have<br />

moved vote intentions 2 to 4 percent, which in a close race<br />

could be significant. 93 In addition, a good deal of evidence<br />

indicates that citizens learn about the candidates and their issue<br />

positions from the debates. 94 In 2012, President Obama was<br />

familiar to voters, but his challenger, Mitt Romney, was known<br />

mostly as the plutocratic caricature that had been painted of him<br />

in Obama advertisements. During their first debate, Romney<br />

looked relaxed, confident, and presidential, while the president<br />

looked grumpy and passive. Polls showed a huge win for<br />

Romney, and many of the Republican-leaning voters who had<br />

been turned off by Romney’s 47 percent gaffe returned to his<br />

camp. Obama’s poll numbers dipped, and Romney even took the<br />

lead in the polls for a short while. Mad at himself for his sleepy<br />

performance in the first debate, Obama snapped back in the<br />

second and third debates, and polls showed that voters<br />

government matching funds money given by the federal<br />

government to qualified presidential candidates in the primary and<br />

general election campaigns<br />

Figure 14.4<br />

Increase in Total Spending in Presidential<br />

Campaigns, 1976–2012<br />

Total spending (in millions of dollars)<br />

2,000<br />

1,900<br />

1,800<br />

1,700<br />

1,600<br />

1,500<br />

1,400<br />

1,300<br />

1,200<br />

1,100<br />

1,000<br />

900<br />

800<br />

700<br />

600<br />

500<br />

400<br />

300<br />

200<br />

100<br />

0<br />

1976 1980 1984 1988 1992<br />

Year<br />

1996 2000 2004 2008 2012<br />

Source: Center for Responsive Politics, “Presidential Fund-raising and Spending, 1976 -2008,”<br />

www.opensecrets.org/pres08/totals.phpcycle=2008; “Banking on Becoming President,”<br />

www.opensecrets.org/pres08/index.php; and “2012 Presidential Race,” www.opensecrets.<br />

org/pres12/index.phpql3.<br />

fig 14.4<br />

considered him the winner. By Election Day he had returned to<br />

his pre-debate standing in the polls.<br />

Money<br />

Winning—or even losing—a presidential campaign involves<br />

serious money. The presidential candidates in 2012 spent a total<br />

of more than $2 billion, almost double what was spent by the<br />

presidential candidates in 2004, which had doubled what was<br />

spent in 2000. The data in Figure 14.4 show this striking upward<br />

trend, which came about despite significant fundraising limits<br />

put into place by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).<br />

This torrent of cash is used to cover the costs of all the<br />

activities just discussed: campaign professionals, polling and<br />

travel for the candidates and often their spouses (along with<br />

the accompanying staff and media), with the biggest share<br />

going to the production and purchase of media advertising.<br />

The campaign costs for all federal offices in 2008 came in at<br />

about $5.3 billion, or just over $18 for every man, woman,<br />

and child in the country. 95 Of course, the 2012 expenditures<br />

easily top all previous records.<br />

First Televised Debate<br />

2012 Campaign<br />

Spending Map<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 541


Do presidential debates matter<br />

Analysts have argued that presidential debates seldom have much influence on the<br />

election outcome. The election of 2012, however, may have proved to be the exception.<br />

The debates certainly changed the momentum of the contest, with a very strong<br />

performance by Republican Mitt Romney in the first debate and an unusually lively and<br />

testy face-off in the second town-hall meeting debate, pictured here.<br />

Where does all this money come from To make sense of<br />

the changing world of election campaign finance, we need to<br />

start by defining the different kinds of campaign<br />

contributions, each with different sources and regulations:<br />

• Government matching funds are given, in the<br />

primary and general election campaigns, to qualified<br />

presidential candidates who choose to accept them<br />

and to spend only that money. The funds come<br />

from citizens who have checked the box on their tax<br />

returns that sends $3 ($6 on joint returns) to fund<br />

presidential election campaigns. The idea behind the<br />

law is to more easily regulate big money influence<br />

on campaign finances, ensure a fair contest, and free<br />

up candidates to communicate with the public. For<br />

primary elections, if a candidate raises at least $5,000<br />

in each of twenty states and agrees to abide by overall<br />

spending limits (almost $55 million in 2012), as<br />

well as state-by-state limits, the federal government<br />

matches every contribution up to $250.<br />

This same fund has in the past fully financed both<br />

major-party candidates’ general election campaigns<br />

and continues to subsidize the two national party<br />

nominating conventions. John McCain opted to<br />

participate in the 2008 federal campaign<br />

financing and faced a spending limit of $84.1<br />

million. Barack Obama was the first presidential<br />

nominee not to participate in the general<br />

election federal financing, arguing that by<br />

relying on small donors, his campaign was<br />

essentially publicly funded anyway. This meant<br />

that his campaign had to raise all the funds it<br />

would spend rather than receiving the federal<br />

subsidy, but it also meant that the Obama<br />

campaign was not limited in the amount it<br />

could spend. If presidential candidates accept<br />

this public funding, they may not raise any other<br />

funds or use any leftover funds raised during the<br />

primary campaign.<br />

In 2012 both parties’ candidates anticipated<br />

raising and spending at least $1 billion each, so<br />

the option of government matching funds<br />

(about $94 million available in 2012) and the<br />

limited spending accepting those would impose<br />

was passed up entirely by both campaigns. This<br />

may well spell the death of public funding of<br />

presidential general election campaigns. 96 Third<br />

parties that received at least 5 percent of the vote<br />

in the previous presidential campaign may also<br />

collect public financing. Unlike the two major<br />

parties, however, the money a third party receives<br />

depends on the number of votes the party received in<br />

the previous election. Ross Perot was eligible to receive<br />

$29 million for his 1996 presidential campaign after<br />

his party won 19 percent of the vote in 1992, while<br />

the two major parties received $61.8 million each. 97<br />

• Hard money refers to the funds given directly to<br />

candidates by individuals, political action committees<br />

(PACs), the political parties, and the government. The<br />

spending of hard money is under the control of the<br />

candidates, but its collection is governed by the rules<br />

of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971,<br />

1974, and its various amendments. This act established<br />

the FEC and was intended to stop the flow of money<br />

from large contributors (and thus limit their influence)<br />

by outlawing contributions by corporations and unions,<br />

and by restricting contributions from individuals. The<br />

campaign finance reform bill passed in 2002 actually<br />

raised the hard money limits. Under that law, individuals<br />

can give a federal candidate up to $2,300 per election<br />

and can give a total of $108,200 to all federal candidates<br />

Spooky PACs<br />

hard money campaign funds donated directly to candidates;<br />

amounts are limited by federal election laws<br />

542 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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and parties in a two-year election cycle. 98 The limit on<br />

the parties’ hard money contributions to candidates was<br />

held to be unconstitutional in a 1999 Colorado district<br />

federal court decision but was later upheld in a five-tofour<br />

Supreme Court decision. 99<br />

However, in the 2010 decision in Citizens United v.<br />

Federal Election Commission, 100 the Supreme Court struck<br />

down a provision of BCRA that prohibited<br />

corporations (and, by implication, unions and interest<br />

groups) from sponsoring broadcast ads for or against<br />

specific candidates. Corporations, unions, and<br />

individual citizens are thus free to engage in<br />

broadcast campaigns, although provisions requiring<br />

disclosure and limitations on direct contributions to<br />

candidates were retained. A new loophole is being<br />

exploited by what are called 501c groups (after the<br />

section of the tax codes under which they are<br />

chartered). Experts disagreed about the likely<br />

consequences of the far-reaching decision, but<br />

mirroring the Court’s five-to-four breakdown on the<br />

ruling, it was generally decried by liberals and<br />

supported by conservatives. 101 What is not<br />

controversial is that the decision opened the<br />

floodgates for vast sums of money, much of it coming<br />

through what are known as “super PACs” funded by<br />

very wealthy individuals, corporations, and unions. 102<br />

• Soft money is unregulated money collected by parties<br />

and interest groups in unlimited amounts to spend<br />

on party-building activities, get-out-the-vote drives,<br />

voter education, or issue position advocacy. Prior to the<br />

passage of campaign finance reform in 2002, as long<br />

as the money was not spent to tell people how to vote<br />

or coordinated with a specific candidate’s campaign,<br />

the FEC could not regulate soft money. This allowed<br />

corporate groups, unions, and political parties to raise<br />

unlimited funds often used for television and radio<br />

advertising, especially in the form of issue advocacy ads.<br />

As we discussed in <strong>Chapter</strong> 13, issue advocacy ads are<br />

television or radio commercials run during an election<br />

campaign that promote a particular issue, usually<br />

by attacking the character, views, or position of the<br />

soft money unregulated campaign contributions by individuals,<br />

groups, or parties that promote general election activities but do<br />

not directly support individual candidates<br />

issue advocacy ads advertisements paid for by soft money, and<br />

thus not regulated, that promote certain issue positions but do not<br />

endorse specific candidates<br />

get-out-the-vote (GOTV) drives efforts by political parties,<br />

interest groups, and the candidate’s staff to maximize voter turnout<br />

among supporters<br />

candidate the group running the ad wishes to defeat.<br />

The courts have considered these ads protected free<br />

speech and have held that individuals and organizations<br />

could not be stopped from spending money to express<br />

their opinions about issues, or even candidates, so long<br />

as they did not explicitly tell viewers how to vote.<br />

Most observers thought that BCRA would remove<br />

unregulated money from campaigns and curb negative<br />

advertising. While it limited the spending of PACs and parties,<br />

new groups, called 527 groups after the loophole (section<br />

527) in the Internal Revenue Code that allows them to avoid<br />

the regulations imposed by BCRA, sprang up in their stead<br />

(see <strong>Chapter</strong> 13). Like groups that raised and spent soft money<br />

prior to BCRA, 527s can raise unlimited funds for issue<br />

advocacy or voter mobilization so long as they do not openly<br />

promote any candidate or openly try to defeat any particular<br />

candidate. BCRA does forbid all groups, even 527s, from<br />

running such ads funded by soft money within sixty days of a<br />

general election, or within thirty days of a primary election.<br />

The 2010 Citizens United case loosened the regulations further,<br />

lifting the sixty-day limit. For upcoming elections it appears<br />

that interest groups, corporations, and unions will have<br />

greater leeway in how and when they campaign for<br />

candidates. Even so, they are still limited in making direct<br />

(hard money) contributions; most of their efforts will be as<br />

independent expenditures (efforts that cannot be coordinated<br />

with the candidates’ campaigns). Moreover, it can be argued<br />

that the new decision will not affect our elections in a major<br />

way as these entities found plenty of ways to attempt to<br />

influence campaigns under the old laws. In any case, given<br />

that such contributors do not share a single common ideology<br />

or set of issue preferences, some observers argue that any<br />

effects will largely cancel each other out. Only with the<br />

unfolding of future elections will we know for sure. 103<br />

Getting Out the Vote<br />

Get-out-the-vote (GOTV) drives refer to the voter mobilization<br />

efforts we discussed earlier in this chapter. As we saw in What’s at<br />

Stake…, voter mobilization efforts are, an increasingly important<br />

part of any presidential campaign. As we noted, in the 1980s and<br />

1990s such efforts concentrated mostly on television advertising.<br />

The expense of these “air wars” meant that parties and<br />

campaigns worried less about knocking on doors and the shoeleather<br />

efforts associated with a campaign’s “ground war.” Parties<br />

mistakenly associated GOTV with “get on television” rather than<br />

its traditional meaning of “get out the vote.” 104 Beginning in<br />

1998 the campaigns renewed efforts to contact potential voters<br />

face-to-face. This is consistent with research that shows that<br />

Meet the Bundlers<br />

Campaign Finance<br />

Debates<br />

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Presidential Campaigns 543


decreased party mobilization efforts were a substantial part of the<br />

reason that voter turnout had been decreasing. 105<br />

In 2008 and 2012, however, the Obama campaign<br />

rewrote the strategy book for modern campaigns. Not only<br />

did it reawaken efforts at direct contacting, but it tied such<br />

contact to advances in Internet technology and social<br />

networking, from regular ads on YouTube, to recurring emails<br />

and text messages to contributors, to highly sophisticated and<br />

coordinated volunteer efforts at voter mobilization. 106 The<br />

Obama team had paid staff, hundreds of offices, and thousands<br />

of volunteers in place across all the battleground states. One<br />

high-level Republican campaign official said in 2008, “This is<br />

the greatest ground game they’ve ever put together. It’s<br />

scary.” 107 As we have seen, the 2012 campaign improved on<br />

the innovations of 2008, engaging everyday citizens as integral<br />

parts of the campaigns rather than just as spectators and voters.<br />

The Obama campaign’s successful mobilization efforts were<br />

able to turn typically Republican states such as Indiana to the<br />

Democratic column in 2008, and to keep all the states they<br />

won in 2008 except North Carolina in 2012. 108<br />

What is particularly interesting about these grassroots efforts<br />

is that they are not just a return to a bygone era. Rather,<br />

mobilization efforts combine old-school door-to-door<br />

campaigning with modern technology. 109 Vast computer databases<br />

tell volunteers whose doors to knock on, and these volunteers<br />

often have hand-held personal electronic devices that have detailed<br />

information on each voter. 110 This allows parties and groups to<br />

target swing voters and their base voters. Campaigns and interest<br />

groups also flood supporters’ email in-boxes and tie up the phone<br />

lines. Seventy-six percent of voters in battleground states reported<br />

that they had been contacted and urged to vote a particular way. 111<br />

In their zeal to seek out all possible voters, campaigns have<br />

reached out to poorer voters in both urban and rural areas who<br />

have not received either party’s attention in recent decades. 112<br />

Interpreting Elections<br />

After the election is over, when the votes are counted, and<br />

we know who won, it would seem that the whole election<br />

season is finally finished. In reality, the outcomes of our<br />

collective decisions cry for interpretation. Probably the most<br />

important interpretation is the one articulated by the victor.<br />

The winning candidate in presidential elections inevitably<br />

claims an electoral mandate, maintaining that the people<br />

want the president to do the things he campaigned on and<br />

that the election is all about the voters’ preference for his<br />

leadership and policy programs. Presidents who can sell<br />

the interpretation that their election to office is a ringing<br />

endorsement of their policies can work with Congress from a<br />

favored position. 113 To the extent that the president is able to<br />

sell his interpretation, he will be more successful in governing.<br />

In contrast, the losing party will try to argue that its loss<br />

was due to the characteristics of its candidate or specific<br />

campaign mistakes. Party members will, predictably, resist the<br />

interpretation that the voters rejected their message and their<br />

vision for the nation. In general, Congress responds less to<br />

presidential declarations of a mandate and more to indications<br />

of changes in public preferences signaled by a change in<br />

which party wins the presidency or a large legislative seat<br />

turnover, especially one that produces a change in party<br />

control of Congress. 114<br />

The media also offer their interpretations of elections. In<br />

fact, research shows that of the many possible explanations<br />

that are available, the mainstream media quickly—in just a<br />

matter of weeks—hone in on an agreed-upon standard<br />

explanation of the election. 115 In 2000 the media, in<br />

explaining the closeness of the race, focused on how much<br />

more likable voters found George W. Bush, despite the<br />

majority’s agreement with Al Gore on the issues, and on what<br />

they claimed to be Gore’s badly run campaign. In 2004 the<br />

media decided quickly that, although the nation was closely<br />

divided, moral-values voters in red states put Bush over the<br />

top. In 2008 the media story was that President Bush’s rockbottom<br />

approval ratings were dragging down McCain and<br />

that, with the economy in collapse, the Republican was facing<br />

insurmountable odds while the voters were hungry for<br />

change. The media, assisted by the left-leaning blogosphere,<br />

also maintained that Obama had run a reasonably positive<br />

campaign, but that Republicans were stirring up anger and<br />

mob-like sentiments with their insinuations that Obama was<br />

“un-American” and “risky.” These explanations offer parts of<br />

the truth, but they oversimplify reality and do not give us a<br />

complete understanding of the complex decisions made by<br />

the American electorate.<br />

Who • What • How<br />

In the matter of presidential elections, the parties, their<br />

elites, party activists, and the candidates all have something<br />

vital at stake. The traditional party leaders fared best under<br />

the old rules and closed-door decision making that yielded<br />

seasoned and electable politicians as the parties’ nominees.<br />

Activists, with a broader agenda than simply winning power,<br />

seek control of the platform and the nomination, and may<br />

well have goals other than electability in mind. The primary<br />

system allows them to reap the fruits of the considerable<br />

time and resources they are willing to invest in politics.<br />

2008 Get<br />

Out the<br />

Vote<br />

Why Don’t<br />

People<br />

Vote<br />

Electoral<br />

Mandate<br />

electoral mandate the perception that an election victory<br />

signals broad support for the winner’s proposed policies<br />

544 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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Candidates seeking the nomination must<br />

answer to both the traditional party leaders and<br />

the activist members. This often puts them in a<br />

difficult position. Once nominated and pursuing<br />

a national bipartisan victory, the candidate needs<br />

to hold on to party supporters while drawing in<br />

those not already committed to the other side.<br />

Here the candidate makes use of the rules of<br />

the Electoral College, professional staff, strategic<br />

issue positions, the media, fundraising, and voter<br />

mobilization.<br />

• The Citizens and<br />

Elections<br />

Do too many informed voters lead<br />

to too much conflict<br />

At the beginning of this chapter we acknowledged<br />

that the American citizen does not look like the<br />

ideal citizen of classical democratic theory. Nothing<br />

we have learned in this chapter has convinced us<br />

otherwise, but that does not mean that Americans<br />

are doomed to an undemocratic future. In the first<br />

chapter of this book we considered three models of<br />

citizen activity in democracies, which we revisit here.<br />

The first model we discussed is the elite<br />

model, which argues that as citizens we can do no more (or<br />

are fitted to do no more) than choose the elites who govern<br />

us, making a rather passive choice from among remote<br />

leaders. The second model of democratic politics, the pluralist<br />

model, sees us as participating in political life primarily<br />

through our affiliation with different types of groups. Finally,<br />

the participatory model of democracy is perhaps more<br />

prescriptive than the other two models, which it rejects<br />

because it believes that it is unsatisfactory for the majority of<br />

the citizenry to play a largely passive role in the political<br />

system. This model holds that we grow and develop as<br />

citizens through being politically active. In fact, rather than<br />

fitting any of these models exclusively, the American citizen’s<br />

role in elections seems to borrow elements from all three<br />

models in a way that might be called a fourth model. As we<br />

shall see, American citizens, though they do not meet the<br />

ideals of democratic theory, do make a difference in<br />

American politics through the mechanism of elections.<br />

A Fourth Model<br />

The early studies of voting that used survey research found<br />

that most citizens had surprisingly low levels of interest in<br />

Unpleasant October Surprise<br />

Just weeks before the 2012 election, Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the<br />

nation’s east coast. Both President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt<br />

Romney suspended campaign activities in the storm’s immediate aftermath, but<br />

Obama, shown here touring the damage and comforting the storm’s victims with<br />

Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, was able to stay in the public eye.<br />

Many in Romney’s campaign felt that the storm sapped any momentum he might<br />

have gathered after the first presidential debate.<br />

presidential election campaigns. These studies of the 1944 and<br />

1948 presidential elections found that most citizens had their<br />

minds made up before the campaigns began and that opinions<br />

changed only slightly in response to the efforts of the parties<br />

and candidates. Instead of people relying on new information<br />

coming from the campaigns, people voted according to the<br />

groups to which they belonged. That is, income, occupation,<br />

religion, and similar factors structured who people talked to,<br />

what they learned, and how they voted.<br />

The authors of these studies concluded that democracy is<br />

probably safer without a single type of citizen who matches the<br />

civics ideal of high levels of participation, knowledge, and<br />

commitment. 116 In this view, such high levels of involvement<br />

would indicate a citizenry fraught with conflict. Intense<br />

participation comes with intense commitment and strongly<br />

held positions, which make for an unwillingness to<br />

compromise. This revision of the call for classic “good citizens”<br />

holds that our democratic polity is actually better off when it<br />

has lots of different types of citizens: some who care deeply, are<br />

highly informed, and participate intensely; many more who<br />

care moderately, are a bit informed, and participate as much<br />

out of duty to the process as commitment to one party or<br />

candidate; and some who are less aware of politics until some<br />

great issue or controversy awakens their political slumber.<br />

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The Citizens and the Courts 545


The virtue of modern democracy in this political specialization<br />

view is that citizens play different roles and that together these<br />

roles combine to form an electoral system that has the attributes<br />

we prefer: it is reasonably stable; it responds to changes of<br />

issues and candidates, but not too much; and the electorate as a<br />

whole cares, but not so intensely that any significant portion of<br />

the citizenry will challenge the results of an election. Its most<br />

obvious flaw is that it is biased against the interests of those<br />

who are least likely to be the activist or pluralist citizens—the<br />

young, the poor, the uneducated, and minorities. 117<br />

Do Elections Make a Difference<br />

If we can argue that most Americans do take more than a<br />

passive role in elections and that, despite being less-than-ideal<br />

democratic citizens, most Americans are involved “enough,”<br />

then we need to ask whether the elections they participate<br />

in make any difference. We would like to think that elections<br />

represent the voice of the people in charting the directions<br />

for government policy. Let us briefly discuss how well this<br />

goal is attained. At a minimal but nevertheless important<br />

level, elections in the United States do achieve electoral<br />

accountability. By this we mean only that by having to stand for<br />

reelection, our leaders are more or less constantly concerned<br />

with the consequences of what they do for their next election.<br />

The fact that citizens tend to vote retrospectively provides<br />

incumbent administrations with a lot of incentive to keep<br />

things running properly, and certainly to avoid policies that<br />

citizens may hold against them. Thus we begin by noting that<br />

elections keep officeholders attentive to what they are doing.<br />

We can also ask if elections make a difference in the sense<br />

that it matters who wins. The answer is yes. Today the parties<br />

stand on opposite sides of many issues, and given the chance,<br />

they will move national policy in the direction they believe in.<br />

Thus in 1980 the election of Ronald Reagan ushered in<br />

conservative policies—especially his tax cuts and domestic<br />

spending reductions—that Jimmy Carter, whom Reagan<br />

defeated, would never have even put on the agenda. Looking at<br />

elections over time, scholars Robert S. Erikson, Michael<br />

MacKuen, and James A. Stimson observe a direct relationship<br />

between national elections and the policies that government<br />

subsequently enacts. Electing Democrats results in more liberal<br />

policies; electing Republicans results in more conservative<br />

policies. 118 This same generalization can be seen in the politics<br />

of the American states, where we find that more liberal states<br />

enact more liberal policies and more conservative states enact<br />

more conservative policies. Policy liberalism, which is a<br />

composite measure of things like the tax structure, welfare<br />

benefits, educational spending, voting for the Equal Rights<br />

Amendment, and so forth, is higher as the states become more<br />

liberal. 119 There is much solid evidence that elections are<br />

indeed crucial in bringing about a degree of policy<br />

congruence between the electorate and what policymakers do.<br />

Just because elections seem to work to bring policy into<br />

rough agreement with citizen preferences does not mean that<br />

all citizens know what they want and that candidates know this<br />

and respond. Some citizens do know what they want; others do<br />

not. Some candidates heed the wishes of constituents; others<br />

pay more attention to their own consciences or to the demands<br />

of ideological party activists and contributors. Averaged over all<br />

these variables, however, we do find that policy follows<br />

elections. Citizens, even with the blunt instrument of the<br />

ballot, can and do change what government does. 120<br />

Take the <strong>Chapter</strong> Quiz<br />

Let’s Revisit:<br />

You could call it the revenge of the<br />

nerds: the triumph of geeky science<br />

over faith and finger-crossing. The<br />

chief analytics officer for the Obama<br />

campaign said of the young data<br />

crunchers tasked with coming up with<br />

a turnout forecast in the Cave in the<br />

campaign’s Chicago office, “We’re kind<br />

of a weird bunch of kids. I haven’t seen<br />

the sun for a while.” 121 An article about<br />

the campaign’s tech team was called<br />

“When the Nerds Go Marching In.” 122<br />

And one campaign official said, “It’s<br />

about turning over control to some<br />

nerds. And more than any other year,<br />

campaign leadership really took that<br />

leap of faith.” 123<br />

Getting out the vote, which used<br />

to be a matter of old-fashioned,<br />

face-to-face retail politics, now begins<br />

in dark rooms filled with glowing<br />

computer screens. The personal touch<br />

is still important, but the science of<br />

campaigning has come a long way even<br />

from the beginning of this century. It<br />

was 2004 when Republican political<br />

guru Karl Rove broke new ground in the<br />

George W. Bush reelection campaign<br />

by micro-targeting supporters and<br />

mobilizing a strong turnout for the<br />

incumbent. Democrats were caught off<br />

guard, but by 2012 they had caught up.<br />

One writer who has studied the<br />

science of campaigning says that<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


the Obama campaign was better<br />

than its opponents in getting out the<br />

vote because the entire door-to-door<br />

element of the campaign was backed<br />

up by powerful data analysis that told<br />

the canvassers who to target and how<br />

to persuade. A campaign doesn’t want<br />

to waste time on the unpersuadable,<br />

and the nerdy Obama analytics team<br />

had eliminated the guesswork. This<br />

writer says,<br />

With an eager pool of<br />

academic collaborators in<br />

political science, behavioral<br />

psychology, and economics<br />

linking up with curious<br />

political operatives and<br />

hacks, the left has birthed an<br />

unexpected subculture. It<br />

now contains a full-fledged<br />

electioneering intelligentsia,<br />

focused on integrating largescale<br />

survey research with<br />

randomized experimental<br />

methods to isolate particular<br />

populations that can be<br />

moved by political contact. 124<br />

The Romney campaign had tried<br />

to construct a system that would<br />

help garner information on Election<br />

Day, but it was years behind the<br />

Obama team, in part because it<br />

had rejected what science could do<br />

for it. One analysis points out three<br />

miscalculations the campaign made. 125<br />

First, when the polls said that the<br />

electorate had a lot of Democrats in it,<br />

but the Romney campaign members’<br />

impressions of the enthusiasm on<br />

their side made them doubt the<br />

polls, they rejected the science and<br />

altered the partisan balance in their<br />

model to fit their intuition. Second,<br />

they believed that doing well with<br />

independents meant they were bound<br />

to win, without researching who the<br />

independent voters were. In hindsight,<br />

it became apparent that fewer voters<br />

were self-identifying as Republicans in<br />

the polls and were calling themselves<br />

Independents instead. By adopting<br />

voter models that subtracted<br />

Democrats and bolstered the<br />

percentages of Republicans while also<br />

counting Independents, the Romney<br />

campaign model was essentially<br />

double-counting some of its voters.<br />

And, finally, the campaign members<br />

were confident that the voters who<br />

said they were undecided would break<br />

for Romney at the last minute, again<br />

basing their expectations on what<br />

they guessed would happen.<br />

The geeky Obama campaign, having<br />

cast its lot with science, knew that<br />

none of those things were true. What’s<br />

at stake in how a campaign gets out<br />

its vote is winning, and the mistakes<br />

of the Romney campaign will be ones<br />

no campaign can afford to make in the<br />

future. •<br />

To Sum Up<br />

Key terms, chapter summaries, practice quizzes, Internet links, and<br />

other study aids are available on the companion web site at<br />

http://republic.cqpress.com.<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

closed primary (p. 527)<br />

electoral mandate (p. 544)<br />

front-loading (p. 527)<br />

front-runner (p. 528)<br />

get-out-the-vote (GOTV) drives (p. 543)<br />

government matching funds (p. 541)<br />

hard money (p. 542)<br />

invisible primary (p. 526)<br />

issue advocacy ads (p. 543)<br />

issue ownership (p. 537)<br />

momentum (p. 528)<br />

Motor Voter Bill (p. 519)<br />

negative advertising (p. 539)<br />

open primary (p. 527)<br />

oppo research (p. 535)<br />

party caucus (p. 526)<br />

political efficacy (p. 514)<br />

position issues (p. 536)<br />

presidential primary (p. 526)<br />

prospective voting (p. 524)<br />

retrospective voting (p. 524)<br />

social connectedness (p. 520)<br />

soft money (p. 543)<br />

swing voters (p. 530)<br />

valence issues (p. 536)<br />

voter mobilization (p. 519)<br />

wedge issue (p. 537)<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

••<br />

Elections represent the core of American democracy, serving<br />

several functions: selecting leaders, giving direction to policy,<br />

developing citizenship, informing the public, containing<br />

conflict, and stabilizing the political system.<br />

••<br />

Voting enhances the quality of democratic life by<br />

legitimizing the outcomes of elections. However, American<br />

voter turnout levels are typically among the lowest in the<br />

world and may endanger American democracy. Factors such<br />

To Sum Up 547<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


as age, income, education, and race affect whether a person<br />

is likely to vote.<br />

••<br />

Candidates and the media often blur issue positions, and<br />

voters realistically cannot investigate policy proposals on<br />

their own. Therefore, voters make a decision by considering<br />

party identification and peer viewpoints, prominent issues,<br />

and campaign images.<br />

••<br />

The “road to the White House” is long, expensive, and<br />

grueling. It begins with planning and early fundraising in the<br />

pre-primary phase and develops into more active campaigning<br />

during the primary phase, which ends with each party’s choice<br />

of a candidate, announced at the party conventions. During<br />

the general election the major-party candidates are pitted<br />

against each other in a process that relies increasingly on<br />

the media and getting out the vote. Much of the battle at this<br />

stage is focused on attracting voters who have not yet made<br />

up their minds.<br />

••<br />

The Electoral College demonstrates well the founders’ desire<br />

to insulate government from public whims. Citizens do not<br />

vote directly for the president or vice president but rather for<br />

an elector who has already pledged to vote for that candidate.<br />

Except in Maine and Nebraska, the candidate with the<br />

majority of votes in a state wins all the electoral votes in that<br />

state.<br />

••<br />

Although American citizens do not fit the mythical ideal<br />

of the democratic citizen, elections still seem to work in<br />

representing the voice of the people in terms of citizen policy<br />

preferences.<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

Adkins, Randall E. 2008. The Evolution of Parties,<br />

Campaigns, and Elections: Landmark Documents from 1787–<br />

2007. Washington, D.C.: <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>. Adkins examines parties<br />

and elections over history through primary documents such as<br />

speeches, letters, court cases, legislation, and documentary<br />

photographs.<br />

Anonymous (Joe Klein). 1996. Primary Colors: A Novel of<br />

Politics. New York: Random House. This is a “fictional”<br />

account of a southern governor running for president whose<br />

campaign is constantly plagued by scandal. Fun to read!<br />

Campbell, Angus, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and<br />

Donald E. Stokes. 1960. The American Voter. New York:<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

Wiley. This classic in voting studies shows the importance of party<br />

identification in electoral behavior. These surveys developed into the<br />

National Election Studies, which continue to serve as the chief<br />

source of data for academic electoral research in the United States.<br />

Conway, M. Margaret, Gertrude A. Steuernagel, and David<br />

W. Ahern. 2005. Women and Political Participation: Cultural<br />

Change in the Political Arena, 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: <strong>CQ</strong><br />

<strong>Press</strong>. This volume offers a succinct overview of the various ways<br />

in which women participate in politics.<br />

Fiorina, Morris P. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American<br />

National Elections. New Haven: Yale University <strong>Press</strong>. In an<br />

intriguing analysis of voting behavior, Fiorina argues that citizens<br />

vote based on retrospective evaluations of the incumbent and, if the<br />

issues are clear, prospective evaluations of the candidates’ positions.<br />

Heilemann, John, and Mark Halperin. 2010. Game Change:<br />

Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a<br />

Lifetime. New York: HarperCollins. Two veteran political<br />

reporters unearth the inside story on the historic 2008 campaign,<br />

detailing Obama’s meteoric rise, Hillary Clinton’s unexpected fall,<br />

and struggles within the McCain camp surrounding the selection of<br />

Sarah Palin as his running mate.<br />

Herrnson, Paul S. 2011. Congressional Elections:<br />

Campaigning at Home and in Washington, 6th ed.<br />

Washington, D.C.: <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>. Herrnson offers a systematic<br />

analysis of congressional campaign dynamics and the fight for<br />

votes and financial resources among electoral candidates.<br />

Polsby, Nelson W., and Aaron Wildavsky. 2004. Presidential<br />

Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics,<br />

11th ed. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield. This is a great<br />

text on presidential elections.<br />

Raymond, Allen (author), and Ian Spiegelman<br />

(contributor). 2008. How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a<br />

Republican Operative. New York: Simon & Schuster. Written<br />

by Republican campaign adviser Allen Raymond, this highly<br />

acclaimed book offers an insider’s perspective on the “dark” side of<br />

electoral campaigns.<br />

Semiatin, Richard J., ed. 2012. Campaigns on the Cutting Edge,<br />

2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>. Semiatin offers a detailed<br />

548 14: Voting, Campaigns, and Elections<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


look at the changing face of modern political campaigns, with an<br />

emphasis on the increasingly prominent role played by digital media.<br />

Suarez, Ray. 2007. The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in<br />

America. New York: HarperCollins. Suarez, a National Public<br />

Radio commentator, analyzes separation of church and state in<br />

America and its implications for voting behavior in American elections.<br />

Toobin, Jeffrey. 2001. Too Close to Call: The Thirty-Six-Day<br />

Battle to Decide the 2000 Election. New York: Random<br />

House. This in-depth, dramatic account of the 2000 election mess<br />

follows the activities of the Bush and Gore camps from election<br />

night through the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to stop the recount<br />

in Florida thirty-six days later.<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

Center for Responsive Politics www.opensecrets.org This<br />

web site keeps tabs on campaign finance, offering multiple ways<br />

to research contributions to candidates and spending patterns in<br />

presidential elections.<br />

CNN Politics www.cnn.com/politics This site is a great source for<br />

up-to-the-minute analysis of current elections.<br />

Electoral College Home Page www.archives.gov/federalregister/electoral-college/<br />

This site is a fascinating compendium<br />

of information on the Electoral College, including its history,<br />

procedures, and presidential and vice presidential “box scores” for<br />

1789 through 2004.<br />

FactCheck.org: A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy<br />

Center www.factcheck.org This web site separates fact from fiction in<br />

campaigns and everyday politics. Both articles and podcasts are available.<br />

The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign<br />

Commercials www.livingroomcandidate.org This is an<br />

excellent site from which to view old and new presidential<br />

campaign commercials. The historical value of comparing<br />

past commercials to current commercials is especially<br />

useful.<br />

Project Vote Smart www.vote-smart.org This useful site will<br />

answer just about any question you might have about current<br />

elections and candidates.<br />

U.S. Government Voting and Elections www.usa.gov/Citizen/<br />

Topics/Voting.shtml This web site contains a variety of information<br />

to help you get involved in the voting process. Get started by<br />

learning about elections and voting, registering to vote, and<br />

contacting elected officials.<br />

Vote411.org: Election Information You Need www.vote 411.<br />

org Find out the basic information you need as a voter, including<br />

how to register, whom to contact in your state with questions,<br />

when and where debates will be held, and exactly what will be<br />

appearing on your ballot in upcoming elections.<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

American Blackout 2005. Winner of the Special Jury Prize<br />

at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, this controversial<br />

documentary situates itself at the intersection of race and<br />

voting, exploring African Americans’ systematic exclusion from<br />

the voting process.<br />

Game Change 2012. This Emmy-winning HBO dramatization is<br />

based on the part of the book by the same name that dealt with John<br />

McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. It is a penetrating<br />

look at the consequences of the unrelenting pressure to win that<br />

campaign staffers face.<br />

Hacking Democracy 2006. This well-received HBO documentary<br />

explores the dangers inherent in America’s increasing reliance<br />

on computerized voting machines, with a specific focus on those<br />

created by the Diebold Corporation.<br />

Journeys With George 2003. This comical, Emmy-winning<br />

documentary follows a reporter (and filmmaker) and the presidential<br />

candidate—George W. Bush—with whom she travels during the<br />

2000 campaign.<br />

The Perfect Candidate 1996. In this superb documentary on the<br />

1994 Virginia Senate race between Oliver North and Charles Robb,<br />

the cameras take you on the campaign trail for a behind-the-scenes<br />

look at how campaigns are run.<br />

Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections 2007. This<br />

eye-opening documentary exposes the extent of fraud during the<br />

2004 U.S. presidential election.<br />

The War Room 1992. This excellent documentary puts you at the<br />

heart of Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.<br />

To Sum Up 549<br />

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Politics:<br />

Who Gets<br />

What, and How<br />

<strong>Chapter</strong><br />

1<br />

in Taking It to the Streets<br />

Like so many others, twenty-four-year-old<br />

Matthew Brandi heard the call through the<br />

Internet. “I actually decided to go protest after<br />

seeing online videos of protesters being arrested,<br />

with the caption, ‘for each one they take away, two<br />

will replace them!’” He says, “It’s like it was my<br />

duty to go. I owed it to the person who got arrested.<br />

They stepped up and got taken out so someone had<br />

to replace them. I called three friends to come with<br />

me as well.” 1<br />

And so on October 1, 2011, Matt and his friends<br />

marched across the Brooklyn Bridge as a part of<br />

Occupy Wall Street—soon to be shortened to just<br />

“Occupy” as the movement spread from New York’s<br />

Zuccotti Park to other locations—to protest the<br />

growing income gap between the top 1 percent of<br />

income earners in this country and everyone else.<br />

By the end of the day, Matt and seven hundred other<br />

marchers found themselves under arrest—an official<br />

response that only galvanized them to further action.<br />

What was especially striking about the Occupy<br />

movement was the clear assumption that the<br />

economic inequality it lamented was the result<br />

CHAPTER OUTLINE<br />

What Is Politics<br />

Politics and Government<br />

Rules and Institutions<br />

Politics and Economics<br />

Political Systems and the<br />

Concept of Citizenship<br />

Authoritarian Systems<br />

Nonauthoritarian Systems<br />

The Role of the People<br />

Origins of Democracy<br />

in America<br />

The Ancient Greek Experience<br />

Politics in the Middle Ages<br />

The Protestant Reformation<br />

and the Enlightenment<br />

Sources of Democracy<br />

Closer to Home<br />

Citizenship in America<br />

The Dangers of Democracy<br />

Madison’s Vision of Citizenship<br />

American Citizenship Today<br />

Thinking Critically About<br />

American Politics<br />

Analysis<br />

Evaluation<br />

Let’s Revisit: What’s<br />

at Stake . . .<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


Internet-generation movement, fired<br />

up and sustained by Twitter, Facebook,<br />

and YouTube.<br />

Standing Up, by Sitting In<br />

The notion that young people are politically disengaged was challenged by the thousands of<br />

American youth who took part in Occupy protests, which began in New York’s Zuccotti Park<br />

(pictured) and spread quickly to cities all over the world. Although the movement drew criticism<br />

for it rangy style and unorthodox tactics, it did succeed in drawing national attention to the<br />

tremendous growth in income inequality that has developed in the United States.<br />

of a rigged system, that politicians<br />

by themselves could not solve the<br />

problem because they were a central<br />

part of it. Said Matt Brandi, “When<br />

action is left to politicians, the end<br />

result is often no action at all.” So<br />

the Occupy people took matters into<br />

their own hands, protesting what<br />

they saw as corruption that kept the<br />

system from working to the benefit of<br />

everyone, and criticizing the growing<br />

inequality of income in the United<br />

States. What they did not do was issue<br />

a list of “demands” or specify certain<br />

policies that would satisfy them.<br />

While the movement had many<br />

supporters—even President Barack<br />

Obama spoke words of encouragement,<br />

noting that the movement reflected a<br />

broad-based frustration about how our<br />

Brief Interviews With<br />

Occupy Protesters<br />

financial system works 2 —critics<br />

immediately attacked the movement<br />

for being “anti-capitalist,”<br />

“disorganized,” and “unfocused.” CNN’s<br />

Erin Burnett, reporting on the protests,<br />

said, “What are they protesting No<br />

one seems to know.” 3<br />

As the rallying cry “We are the 99%”<br />

swept through the nation—through<br />

cities, smaller towns, and college<br />

campuses—it was particularly<br />

attractive to young Americans,<br />

struggling in the difficult economy<br />

and frustrated with the status quo<br />

that seemed to enrich the few at the<br />

expense of the many. As those most<br />

tied into social media, they were also<br />

most likely to hear about the protests<br />

and to spread the word. Like the<br />

protests that fueled the Arab Spring<br />

in the Middle East, Occupy was an<br />

Are You in the 99 Percent<br />

Young people are notoriously<br />

uninvolved in politics, often seeing<br />

it as irrelevant to their lives and the<br />

things they really care about. Knowing<br />

that they pay little attention and<br />

tend not to vote in large numbers,<br />

politicians feel free to ignore their<br />

concerns, reinforcing their cynicism<br />

and apathy. Young people did turn out<br />

in larger-than-usual numbers in 2008<br />

(51 percent of those under thirty turned<br />

out, and they made up 17 percent<br />

of the electorate, an increase of 2.2<br />

million voters over 2004), breaking<br />

decisively (66 to 39 percent) for<br />

President Obama over his opponent,<br />

John McCain. But the recession had<br />

dampened their enthusiasm, and it<br />

was not at all clear that they would<br />

turn out in such numbers again. 4<br />

But the Occupy movement spoke to<br />

many of them, and to their disillusion<br />

with the political system. Again, Matt<br />

Brandi: “The people lose their power once<br />

they commit to supporting a particular<br />

policy, politician, or party. Their energy<br />

and efforts are co-opted for political<br />

power wrangling and electioneering.”<br />

Our founders were no fans of political<br />

parties (they aren’t even mentioned in<br />

the Constitution), but they did value<br />

political engagement and they knew<br />

that democracies needed care and<br />

attention in order to survive. In 1787,<br />

when Benjamin Franklin was asked by<br />

a woman what he and other founders<br />

of the Constitution had created, he<br />

replied, “A republic, madam, if you can<br />

keep it.” Many contemporary writers<br />

worry that we are not keeping the<br />

republic, that as new generations find<br />

politics a turn-off they will become<br />

disaffected adults and the system will<br />

start to unravel. As one writer says, “a<br />

nation that hates politics will not long<br />

thrive as a democracy.” 5<br />

2 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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Yet protesters like Matt Brandi sound<br />

as committed to democracy as<br />

Benjamin Franklin could have wished,<br />

even though his efforts are not focused<br />

on voting or traditional methods of<br />

political engagement. Is a nation of<br />

Matt Brandis a nation in trouble, or<br />

does his brand of activism, and the<br />

whole protest ethic of the Occupy<br />

movement, help to keep the republic<br />

What, exactly, is at stake in taking<br />

one’s views to the street We return<br />

to this question after we learn more<br />

about the meaning of politics and the<br />

difference it makes in our lives. •<br />

Politics can best be understood as the struggle over who gets the power and resources<br />

in society. Politics produces winners and losers, and much of the reason it can look so<br />

ugly is that people fight desperately not to be losers.<br />

Have you got grand ambitions for your life Do<br />

you want a powerful position in business, influence<br />

in high places, money to make things happen Perhaps you<br />

would like to make a difference in the world, heal the sick,<br />

fight for peace, feed the poor. Or maybe all you want from life<br />

is a good education; a well-paying job; a comfortable home;<br />

and a safe, prosperous, contented existence. Think politics has<br />

nothing to do with any of those things Think again.<br />

All the things that make those goals attainable—a strong<br />

national defense, education loans or tax deductions for tuition<br />

money, economic prosperity, full employment, favorable<br />

mortgage rates, policies that let us take time off from work to<br />

have kids, secure streets and neighborhoods, cheap and<br />

efficient public transportation—are influenced by or are the<br />

products of politics.<br />

Yet, if you listen to the news, politics may seem like one long<br />

campaign commercial: eternal bickering and finger-pointing by<br />

public servants who seem more interested in feathering their<br />

own nests than in helping voters secure theirs. Public policy often<br />

seems to focus on bailouts for banks and powerful industries like<br />

automobile manufacturers at the expense of those everyday<br />

citizens who politicians like to refer to as “Main Street.” Politics,<br />

which we would like to think of as a noble and even morally<br />

elevated activity, takes on all the worst characteristics of the<br />

business world, where we expect people to take advantage of<br />

each other and pursue their own private interests. Can this really<br />

be the heritage of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln Can<br />

this be the “world’s greatest democracy” at work<br />

In this chapter we get to the heart of what politics is,<br />

how it relates to other concepts such as power, government,<br />

rules, economics, and citizenship. We propose that politics<br />

can best be understood as the struggle over who gets power<br />

and resources in society. Politics produces winners and losers,<br />

and much of the reason it can look so ugly is that people fight<br />

desperately not to be losers.<br />

Contrary to their depictions in the media, and maybe<br />

even in our own minds, the people who are doing that<br />

desperate fighting are not some special breed who are<br />

different—more corrupt or self-interested or greedy—from<br />

the rest of us. They are us—whether they are officials in<br />

Washington or mayors of small towns, corporate CEOs or<br />

representatives of labor unions, local cops or soldiers in the<br />

Middle East, churchgoers or atheists, doctors or lawyers,<br />

shopkeepers or consumers, professors or students, they are<br />

the people that in a democracy we call citizens.<br />

As we will see, it is the beauty of a democracy that all the<br />

people, including the everyday people like us, get to fight for<br />

what they want. Not everyone can win, of course, and many<br />

never come close. There is no denying that some people bring<br />

resources to the process that give them an edge, and that the<br />

rules give advantages to some groups of people over others. But<br />

the people who pay attention and who learn how the rules work<br />

can begin to use those rules to increase their chances of getting<br />

what they want, whether it is a lower personal tax bill, greater<br />

pollution controls, a more aggressive foreign policy, safer streets,<br />

a better-educated population, or more public parks. If they<br />

become very skilled citizens, they can even begin to change the<br />

rules so that they can fight more easily for the kind of society<br />

they think is important, and so that people like them are more<br />

likely to end up winners in the high-stakes game we call politics.<br />

The government our founders created for us gives us a<br />

remarkable playing field on which to engage in that game.<br />

Like any other politicians, the designers of the American<br />

system were caught up in the struggle for power and<br />

resources, and in the desire to write laws that would<br />

maximize the chances that they, and people like them, would<br />

be winners in the new system. Nonetheless, they crafted a<br />

government remarkable for its ability to generate compromise<br />

and stability, and also for its potential to realize freedom and<br />

prosperity for its citizens.<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher<br />

1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How 3


To help you better understand the system they gave us<br />

and our place in it, in this chapter you will learn<br />

••<br />

the meaning of “politics”<br />

••<br />

the varieties of political systems and the roles they<br />

endorse for the individuals who live in them<br />

••<br />

the historical origins of American democracy<br />

••<br />

the goals and concerns of the founders as they<br />

created the American system<br />

••<br />

the components of critical thinking and how the<br />

themes of power and citizenship will serve as our<br />

framework for understanding American politics<br />

What Is Politics<br />

A peaceful means of determining who gets<br />

power and influence in society<br />

Over two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle<br />

said that we are political animals, and political animals we seem<br />

destined to remain. The truth is that politics is a fundamental<br />

and complex human activity. In some ways it is our capacity<br />

to be political—to cooperate, bargain, and compromise—that<br />

helps distinguish us from all the other animals out there.<br />

Politics may have its baser moments—Watergate and White<br />

House interns come to mind—but it also allows us to reach<br />

more exalted heights than we could ever achieve alone, from<br />

the dedication of a new public library, to the building of a<br />

national highway system, to the stabilization of a crashing<br />

economy, to the guarantee of health care to all U.S. citizens.<br />

Since this book is about politics, in all its glory as well as<br />

its shame, we need to begin with a clear definition. One of<br />

the most famous definitions, put forth by the well-known<br />

political scientist Harold Lasswell, is still one of the best, and<br />

we use it to frame our discussion throughout this book.<br />

Lasswell defined politics as “who gets what when and how.” 6<br />

Politics is a way of determining, without recourse to violence,<br />

who gets power and resources in society, and how they get<br />

them. Power is the ability to get other people to do what you<br />

want them to do. The resources in question here might be<br />

governmental jobs, tax revenues, laws that help you get your<br />

way, or public policies that work to your advantage.<br />

The tools of politics are compromise and cooperation;<br />

discussion and debate; even, sometimes, bribery and deceit.<br />

Politics is the process through which we try to arrange our<br />

collective lives in some kind of social order so that we can<br />

live without crashing into each other at every turn, and to<br />

provide ourselves with goods and services we could not<br />

obtain alone. But politics is also about getting our own way.<br />

Our way may be a noble goal for society or pure self-interest,<br />

but the struggle we engage in is a political struggle. Because<br />

politics is about power and other scarce resources, there will<br />

always be winners and losers in politics. If we could always<br />

get our own way, politics would disappear. It is because we<br />

cannot always get what we want that politics exists.<br />

What would a world without politics be like There<br />

would be no resolution or compromise between conflicting<br />

interests, because those are certainly political activities. There<br />

would be no agreements struck, bargains made, or alliances<br />

formed. Unless there were enough of every valued resource to<br />

go around, or unless the world were big enough that we could<br />

live our lives without coming into contact with other human<br />

beings, life would be constant conflict—what the philosopher<br />

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) called a “war of all against all.”<br />

Individuals, unable to cooperate with one another (because<br />

cooperation is essentially political), would have no option but<br />

to resort to brute force to settle disputes and allocate resources.<br />

Our capacity to be political saves us from that fate. We do<br />

have the ability to persuade, cajole, bargain, promise,<br />

compromise, and cooperate. We do have the ability to agree on<br />

what principles should guide our handling of power and<br />

other scarce resources and to live our collective lives according<br />

to those principles. Because there are many potential theories<br />

about how to manage power—who should have it, how it<br />

should be used, how it should be transferred—agreement on<br />

which principles are legitimate, or accepted as “right,” can<br />

break down. When agreement on what is legitimate fails,<br />

violence often takes its place. Indeed, the human history of<br />

warfare attests to the fragility of political life.<br />

Although one characteristic of government is that it has a<br />

monopoly on the legitimate use of force, politics means that<br />

we have alternatives, that bloodshed is not the only way of<br />

dealing with human conflict. Interestingly, the word politics<br />

comes from the Greek word polis, meaning “city-state.”<br />

Similarly, the word civilization comes from the Latin word civitas,<br />

meaning “city” or “state.” Thus our Western notions of politics<br />

Aristotle Bio<br />

Thomas Hobbes Bio<br />

Harold Lasswell Bio<br />

Batman and Political<br />

Violence<br />

politics who gets what, when, and how; a process of determining<br />

how power and resources are distributed in a society without<br />

recourse to violence<br />

power the ability to get other people to do what you want<br />

social order the way we organize and live our collective lives<br />

legitimate accepted as “right” or proper<br />

4 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


and civilization share similar roots, all<br />

tied up with what it means to live a<br />

shared public life.<br />

Politics and Government<br />

Although the words politics and<br />

government are sometimes used<br />

interchangeably, they refer to<br />

different things. Politics is a process<br />

or an activity through which power<br />

and resources are gained and lost.<br />

Government, on the other hand, is a<br />

system or organization for exercising<br />

authority over a body of people.<br />

American politics is what happens in<br />

the halls of Congress, on the campaign<br />

trail, at Washington cocktail parties, and<br />

in neighborhood association meetings.<br />

It is the making of promises, deals, and<br />

laws. American government is the<br />

Constitution and the institutions set up<br />

by the Constitution for the exercise of<br />

authority by the American people, over<br />

the American people.<br />

Authority is power that citizens view as legitimate, or<br />

“right”—power to which we have given our implicit consent.<br />

You can think of it this way: As children, we probably did as our<br />

parents told us, or submitted to their punishment if we didn’t,<br />

because we recognized their authority over us. As we became<br />

adults, we started to claim that our parents had less authority<br />

over us, that we could do what we wanted. We no longer saw<br />

their power as wholly legitimate or appropriate. Governments<br />

exercise authority because people recognize them as legitimate<br />

even if they often do not like doing what they are told (paying<br />

taxes, for instance). When governments cease to be regarded as<br />

legitimate, the result may be revolution or civil war, unless the<br />

state is powerful enough to suppress all opposition.<br />

Rules and Institutions<br />

Government is shaped by the process of politics, but it in turn<br />

provides the rules and institutions that shape the way politics<br />

continues to operate. The rules and institutions of government<br />

have a profound effect on how power is distributed and who<br />

wins and who loses in the political arena. Life is different<br />

for people in other countries not only because they speak<br />

government a system or organization for exercising authority<br />

over a body of people<br />

authority power that is recognized as legitimate<br />

rules directives that specify how resources will be distributed or<br />

what procedures govern collective activity<br />

The Best Medicine<br />

The political parties and their candidates frequently clash on issues and ideology. Norms<br />

of courtesy have evolved so that competing elites continue to work together to reach the<br />

compromises that make democratic politics possible. Here, President Barack Obama and then–<br />

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney share a moment of hilarity with a laughing<br />

Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the 2012 Alfred E. Smith Dinner, a humorous respite in the midst of an<br />

otherwise acrimonious political campaign.<br />

different languages and eat different foods but also because<br />

their governments establish rules that cause life to be lived in<br />

different ways.<br />

Rules can be thought of as the how in the definition “who<br />

gets what . . . and how.” They are directives that determine how<br />

resources are allocated and how collective action takes place—<br />

that is, they determine how we try to get the things we want. We<br />

can do it violently, or we can do it politically, according to the<br />

rules. Those rules can provide for a single dictator, for a king, for<br />

rule by God’s representative on Earth or by the rich, for rule by a<br />

majority of the people, or for any other arrangement. The point<br />

of the rules is to provide some framework for us to solve without<br />

violence the problems that are generated by our collective lives.<br />

Because the rules we choose can influence which people<br />

will get what they want most often, understanding the rules is<br />

crucial to understanding politics. Consider for a moment the<br />

impact a change of rules would have on the outcome of the<br />

sport of basketball, for instance. What if the average height of<br />

the players could be no more than 5'10" What if the baskets<br />

were lowered What if foul shots counted for two points<br />

rather than one Basketball would be a very different game,<br />

and the teams recruited would look quite unlike the teams for<br />

which we now cheer. So it is with governments and politics:<br />

change the people who are allowed to vote or the length of<br />

time a person can serve in office, and the political process and<br />

the potential winners and losers change drastically.<br />

Winners and<br />

Losers; Health<br />

Care<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher<br />

Rules of Politics<br />

What Is Politics 5


Figure 1.1<br />

A Comparison of Economic Systems<br />

More<br />

government<br />

control<br />

of the<br />

economy<br />

(substantive<br />

guarantees)<br />

Socialism<br />

Complete<br />

government<br />

ownership and<br />

control (substantive<br />

guarantees)<br />

Examples:<br />

North Korea, Cuba,<br />

former Soviet Union<br />

Social<br />

democracy<br />

Mostly private<br />

ownership but<br />

extensive government<br />

control (substantive<br />

and procedural<br />

guarantees)<br />

Examples:<br />

Sweden, Norway<br />

Regulated<br />

capitalism<br />

Private ownership<br />

and some government<br />

control<br />

(procedural<br />

guarantees)<br />

Examples:<br />

Britain, United States<br />

Laissez-faire<br />

capitalism<br />

Private ownership<br />

and no government<br />

control<br />

There are no<br />

real-world examples.<br />

Less<br />

government<br />

control<br />

of the economy<br />

(procedural<br />

guarantees)<br />

Economic systems are defined largely by the degree to which government owns the means by which material resources are produced<br />

(for example, factories and industry) and controls economic decision making. On a scale ranging from socialism—complete<br />

government ownership and control of the economy (on the left)—to laissez-faire capitalism—complete individual ownership and<br />

control of the economy (on the right)—social democracies would be located in the center. These hybrid systems are characterized by<br />

mostly private ownership of the means of production but considerable government control over economic decisions.<br />

fig 1.1<br />

We can think of institutions as the where of the political<br />

struggle, though Lasswell didn’t include a “where”<br />

component in his definition. They are the organizations where<br />

governmental power is exercised. In the United States, our<br />

rules provide for the institutions of a representative<br />

democracy—that is, rule by the elected representatives of the<br />

people, and for a federal political system. Our Constitution<br />

lays the foundation for the institutions of Congress, the<br />

presidency, the courts, and the bureaucracy as a stage on<br />

which the drama of politics plays itself out. Other systems<br />

might call for different institutions—perhaps an all-powerful<br />

parliament, or a monarch, or even a committee of rulers.<br />

These complicated systems of rules and institutions do<br />

not appear out of thin air. They are carefully designed by the<br />

founders of different systems to create the kinds of society<br />

they think will be stable and prosperous, but also where<br />

people like themselves are likely to be winners. Remember<br />

that not only the rules but also the institutions we choose<br />

influence who most easily and most often get their own way.<br />

Politics and Economics<br />

Whereas politics is concerned with the distribution of power<br />

and resources in society, economics is concerned specifically<br />

Modern Political<br />

Institutions<br />

with the production and distribution of society’s wealth—<br />

material goods such as bread, toothpaste, and housing, and<br />

services such as medical care, education, and entertainment.<br />

Because both politics and economics focus on the distribution<br />

of society’s resources, political and economic questions<br />

often get confused in contemporary life. Questions about<br />

how to pay for government, about government’s role in the<br />

economy, and about whether government or the private sector<br />

should provide certain services have political and economic<br />

dimensions. Because there are no clear-cut distinctions here, it<br />

can be difficult to keep these terms straight.<br />

The sources of the words politics and economics suggest that<br />

their meanings were once more distinct than they are today. We<br />

already saw that the Greek source of the word political was polis,<br />

or “city-state,” the basic political unit of ancient Greece. For the<br />

free male citizens of the city-state of Athens (by no means the<br />

majority of the inhabitants), politics was a prestigious and<br />

jealously restricted activity. However, the public, political world<br />

of Athens was possible only because a whole class of people<br />

(slaves and women) existed to support the private world, the<br />

oikonomia, or “household.” This early division of the world into<br />

institutions organizations in which governmental power is<br />

exercised<br />

economics production and distribution of a society’s material<br />

resources and services<br />

6 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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the political and the economic clearly separated the two realms.<br />

Political life was public, and economic life was private. Today<br />

that distinction is not nearly so simple. What is public and<br />

private now depends on what is controlled by government. The<br />

various forms of economic systems are shown in Figure 1.1.<br />

Capitalism<br />

In a pure capitalist economy, all the means used to produce<br />

material resources (industry, business, and land, for instance)<br />

are owned privately, and decisions about production and<br />

distribution are left to individuals operating through the<br />

free-market process. Capitalist economies rely on the market—<br />

the process of supply and demand—to decide how much<br />

of a given item to produce or how much to charge for it. In<br />

capitalist countries, people do not believe that the government<br />

is capable of making such judgments (like how much<br />

toothpaste to produce), and they want to keep such decisions<br />

out of the hands of government and in the hands of individuals<br />

who they believe know best about what they want. The<br />

philosophy that corresponds with this belief is called laissezfaire<br />

capitalism, from a French term that, loosely translated,<br />

means “let people do as they wish.” The government has no<br />

economic role at all in such a system. However, no economic<br />

system today maintains a purely unregulated form of<br />

capitalism, with the government completely uninvolved.<br />

Like most other countries today, the United States has a<br />

system of regulated capitalism. It maintains a capitalist economy<br />

and individual freedom from government interference remains<br />

the norm, but it allows government to step in and regulate the<br />

economy to guarantee individual rights and to provide<br />

procedural guarantees that the rules will work smoothly and<br />

fairly. Although in theory the market ought to provide<br />

everything that people need and want, and should regulate itself<br />

as well, sometimes the market breaks down, or fails. In regulated<br />

capitalism, the government steps in to try to fix it.<br />

Markets have cycles, with periods of growth often<br />

followed by periods of slowdown or recession. Individuals<br />

capitalist economy an economic system in which the market<br />

determines production, distribution, and price decisions, and<br />

property is privately owned<br />

laissez-faire capitalism an economic system in which the<br />

market makes all decisions and the government plays no role<br />

regulated capitalism a market system in which the government<br />

intervenes to protect rights and make procedural guarantees<br />

procedural guarantees government assurance that the rules<br />

will work smoothly and treat everyone fairly, with no promise of<br />

particular outcomes<br />

socialist economy an economic system in which the state<br />

determines production, distribution, and price decisions, and<br />

property is government owned<br />

Why Is This Man Smiling<br />

Space travel was once the sole province of government agencies, but these<br />

days private entrepreneurs are getting involved, like billionaire Richard<br />

Branson, who seems quite delighted that his Virgin Galactic spaceship will<br />

offer civilian “space tourists” the chance to travel like astronauts—for<br />

just $200,000 (roundtrip, of course). The lesson, however, is that without<br />

government investment in the technology of space travel, it would never<br />

have been profitable for private enterprise to take it up.<br />

and businesses look to government for protection from<br />

these cyclical effects. For example, President Franklin D.<br />

Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration to get<br />

Americans back to work during the Great Depression, and<br />

more recently, Congress acted to stabilize the economy in<br />

the wake of the financial collapse caused by the subprime<br />

mortgage crisis in the fall of 2008. Government may also<br />

act to ensure the safety of the consumer public and of<br />

working people, or to encourage fair business practices<br />

(like prevention of monopolies), or to provide goods and<br />

services that people have no incentive to produce<br />

themselves.<br />

Highways, streetlights, libraries, museums, schools,<br />

Social Security, national defense, and a clean environment are<br />

some examples of the goods and services that many people<br />

are unable or unwilling to produce privately. Consequently,<br />

government undertakes to provide these things (with money<br />

provided by taxpayers) and, in doing so, becomes not only a<br />

political but an economic actor as well. To the extent that<br />

government gets involved in a capitalist economy, we move<br />

away from laissez-faire to regulated capitalism.<br />

Socialism<br />

In a socialist economy like that of the former Soviet Union<br />

(based loosely on the ideas of German economist Karl<br />

Marx), economic decisions are made not by individuals<br />

through the market but rather by politicians, based on their<br />

Confused by<br />

Capitalism<br />

2008 Financial Crisis<br />

What Is Politics 7<br />

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judgment of what society needs. Rather than allowing the<br />

market to determine the proper distribution of material<br />

resources, politicians decide what the distribution ought<br />

to be and then create economic policy to bring about that<br />

outcome. In other words, they emphasize not procedural<br />

guarantees of fair rules and process, but rather substantive<br />

guarantees of what they believe to be fair outcomes.<br />

According to the basic values of a socialist or communist<br />

system (although the two systems have some theoretical<br />

differences, for our purposes they are similar), it is unjust for<br />

some people to own more property than others and to have<br />

power over them because of it. Consequently, the theory<br />

goes, the state or society—not corporations or individuals—<br />

should own the property (like land, factories, and<br />

corporations). In such systems, the public and private spheres<br />

overlap, and politics controls the distribution of all resources.<br />

The societies that have tried to put these theories into practice<br />

have ended up with very repressive political systems, but<br />

Marx hoped that eventually socialism would evolve to a point<br />

where each individual had control over his or her own<br />

life—a radical form of democracy.<br />

Many theories hold that socialism is possible only after a<br />

revolution that thoroughly overthrows the old system to<br />

make way for new values and institutions. This is what<br />

happened in Russia in 1917 and in China in the 1940s. Since<br />

the socialist economies of the former Soviet Union and<br />

Eastern Europe have fallen apart, socialism has been left with<br />

few supporters, although some nations, such as China, North<br />

Korea, and Cuba, still claim allegiance to it. Even China,<br />

however, introduced market-based reforms in the 1970s and<br />

by 2010 ranked as the world’s second largest economy, after<br />

the United States.<br />

Social Democracy<br />

Some countries in Western Europe, especially the<br />

Scandinavian nations of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden,<br />

have developed hybrid economic systems. As noted<br />

in Figure 1.1, these systems represent something of a<br />

middle ground between socialist and capitalist systems.<br />

Primarily capitalist, in that they believe most property<br />

can be held privately, proponents of social democracy<br />

argue nonetheless that the values of equality promoted<br />

by socialism are attractive and can be brought about by<br />

democratic reform rather than revolution. Believing that<br />

the economy does not have to be owned by the state for<br />

its effects to be controlled by the state, social democratic<br />

countries attempt to strike a difficult balance between<br />

providing substantive guarantees of fair outcomes and<br />

procedural guarantees of fair rules.<br />

Since World War II, the citizens of many Western<br />

European nations have elected social democrats to office,<br />

where they have enacted policies to bring about more<br />

equality—for instance, the elimination of poverty and<br />

unemployment, better housing, and adequate health care for<br />

all. Even where social democratic governments are voted out<br />

of office, such programs have proved so popular that it is<br />

often difficult for new leaders to alter them.<br />

Political Systems<br />

and the Concept of<br />

Citizenship<br />

Different ideas about power and the social<br />

order, different models of governing<br />

Too Small<br />

If the U.S. Postal Service is forced to make a profit, small rural sites like<br />

this one in Bradley, Michigan, would probably be shut down. As a public<br />

corporation, the Postal Service has to be accessible and deliver mail<br />

everywhere, from the icy slopes of Alaska to the swamps of Florida, for the<br />

cost of one first-class stamp.<br />

Karl Marx Bio<br />

A Real<br />

Socialist<br />

Social<br />

Democracy<br />

Just as there are different kinds of economic systems, there<br />

are different sorts of political systems, based on different<br />

substantive guarantees government assurance of particular<br />

outcomes or results<br />

social democracy a hybrid system combining a capitalist<br />

economy and a government that supports equality<br />

8 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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ideas about who should have power and what the social<br />

order should be—that is, how much public regulation there<br />

should be over individual behavior. For our purposes, we<br />

can divide political systems into two types: those in which<br />

the government has the power to impose a particular social<br />

order, deciding how individuals ought to behave, and those<br />

in which individuals exercise personal power over most<br />

of their own behavior and ultimately over government as<br />

well. These two types of systems are not just different in a<br />

theoretical sense. The differences have very real implications<br />

for the people who live in them. Thus the notion of<br />

citizenship (or the lack of it) is tied closely to the kind of<br />

political system a nation has.<br />

Figure 1.2 offers a comparison of these systems. One<br />

type of system, called authoritarian government,<br />

potentially has total power over its subjects; the other<br />

type, nonauthoritarian government, permits citizens to<br />

limit the state’s power by claiming rights that the<br />

government must protect. Another way to think about the<br />

distinction is that in authoritarian systems, government<br />

makes substantive decisions about how people ought to live<br />

their lives; in nonauthoritarian systems, government<br />

merely guarantees that there are fair rules and leaves the<br />

rest to individual control. Sometimes governments that<br />

exercise substantive decision making in the economic<br />

realm also do so with respect to the social order. But, as<br />

Figure 1.3 shows, there are several possible combinations<br />

of economic and political systems.<br />

Authoritarian Systems<br />

Authoritarian governments give ultimate power to the<br />

state rather than to the people to decide how they ought to<br />

live their lives. By “authoritarian governments,” we usually<br />

mean those in which the people cannot effectively claim<br />

rights against the state; where the state chooses to exercise its<br />

power, the people have no choice but to submit to its will.<br />

Authoritarian governments can take various forms:<br />

sovereignty can be vested in an individual (dictatorship or<br />

monarchy), in God (theocracy), in the state itself (fascism),<br />

or in a ruling class (oligarchy). When a system combines<br />

authoritarian governments systems in which the state holds<br />

all power over the social order<br />

totalitarian a system in which absolute power is exercised over<br />

every aspect of life<br />

authoritarian capitalism a system in which the state<br />

allows people economic freedom but maintains stringent social<br />

regulations to limit noneconomic behavior<br />

anarchy the absence of government and laws<br />

democracy government that vests power in the people<br />

an authoritarian government with a socialist economy, we<br />

say that the system is totalitarian. As in the earlier<br />

example of the former Soviet Union, a totalitarian system<br />

exercises its power over every part of society—economic,<br />

social, political, and moral—leaving little or no private<br />

realm for individuals.<br />

But an authoritarian state may also limit its own<br />

power. In such cases, it may deny individuals rights in those<br />

spheres where it chooses to act, but it may leave large areas of<br />

society, such as a capitalist economy, free from governmental<br />

interference. Singapore is an example of this type of<br />

authoritarian capitalism, where people have considerable<br />

economic freedom but stringent social regulations limit their<br />

noneconomic behavior. When American teenager Michael Fay<br />

was caught vandalizing cars in Singapore in 1994, the<br />

government there sentenced him to be caned. In the United<br />

States, people have rights that prevent cruel and unusual<br />

punishment like caning, but in Singapore, Fay had no such<br />

rights and had to submit to the government’s will.<br />

Authoritarian governments often pay lip service to the<br />

people, but when push comes to shove, as it usually does in<br />

such states, the people have no effective power against the<br />

government. Again, to use the terminology we introduced<br />

earlier, government does not provide guarantees of fair<br />

processes for individuals; it guarantees a substantive vision of<br />

what life will be like—what individuals will believe, how<br />

they will act, what they will choose.<br />

Nonauthoritarian Systems<br />

In nonauthoritarian systems, ultimate power rests with<br />

individuals to make decisions concerning their lives. The<br />

most extreme form of nonauthoritarianism is called anarchy.<br />

Anarchists would do away with government and laws<br />

altogether. People advocate anarchy because they value the<br />

freedom to do whatever they want more than they value the<br />

order and security that governments provide by forbidding<br />

or regulating certain kinds of behavior. Few people are true<br />

anarchists, however. Anarchy may sound attractive in theory,<br />

but the inherent difficulties of the position make it hard<br />

to practice. For instance, how could you even organize a<br />

revolution to get rid of government without some rules about<br />

who is to do what and how decisions are to be made<br />

Democracy<br />

A less extreme form of nonauthoritarian government, and<br />

one much more familiar to us, is democracy (from the Greek<br />

demos, meaning “people”). In democracies, government is not<br />

external to the people, as it is in authoritarian systems; in a<br />

fundamental sense, government is the people. Recognizing<br />

Anarchy<br />

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Political Systems and the Concept of Citizenship 9


that collective life usually calls for some restrictions on what<br />

individuals may do (laws forbidding murder, for instance,<br />

or theft), democracies nevertheless try to maximize freedom<br />

Figure 1.2<br />

A Comparison of Political Systems<br />

Nonauthoritarian system<br />

(such as democracy)<br />

Individuals (citizens)<br />

decide how to live their<br />

lives. Government role<br />

is limited to procedural<br />

guarantees of individual<br />

rights.<br />

Examples: United States,<br />

Sweden, Japan, South Korea,<br />

India<br />

Authoritarian system<br />

Government decides how<br />

individuals (subjects)<br />

should live their lives and<br />

imposes a substantive vision.<br />

Examples: China, North Korea,<br />

Cuba, Saudi Arabia<br />

Less government control<br />

over individual lives and the<br />

social order (procedural<br />

guarantees)<br />

More government control<br />

over individual lives and the<br />

social order (substantive<br />

guarantees)<br />

Anarchy<br />

No government or<br />

man-made laws;<br />

individuals do as they<br />

please.<br />

There are no real-world<br />

examples.<br />

Political systems are defined by the extent to which individual<br />

citizens or governments decide what the social order should<br />

look like—that is, how people should live their collective,<br />

noneconomic lives. Except for anarchies, every system allots<br />

a role to government to regulate individual behavior—for<br />

example, to prohibit murder, rape, and theft. But beyond such<br />

basic regulation, they differ radically on who gets to determine<br />

how individuals live their lives, and whether government’s<br />

role is simply to provide procedural guarantees that protect<br />

individuals’ rights to make their own decisions or to provide a<br />

much more substantive view of how individuals should behave.<br />

for the individuals who live under them. Although they<br />

generally make decisions through some sort of majority rule,<br />

democracies still provide procedural guarantees to preserve<br />

individual rights—usually protections of due process and<br />

minority rights. This means that if individuals living in a<br />

democracy feel their rights have been violated, they have the<br />

right to ask government to remedy the situation.<br />

Democracies are based on the principle of popular<br />

sovereignty; that is, there is no power higher than the people<br />

and, in the United States, the document establishing their<br />

authority, the Constitution. The central idea here is that no<br />

government is considered legitimate unless the governed<br />

consent to it, and people are not truly free unless they live<br />

under a law of their own making.<br />

Theories of Democracy<br />

Generally, as we indicated, democracies hold that the will<br />

of the majority should prevail. This is misleadingly simple,<br />

however. Some theories of democracy hold that all the<br />

people should agree on political decisions. This rule of<br />

unanimity makes decision making very slow, and sometimes<br />

impossible, since everyone has to be persuaded to agree.<br />

Even when majority rule is the norm, there are many ways<br />

of calculating the majority. Is it 50 percent plus one Twothirds<br />

Three-fourths Decision making becomes increasingly<br />

difficult as the number of people who are required to agree<br />

grows. And, of course, majority rule brings with it the<br />

problem of minority rights. If the majority gets its way, what<br />

happens to the rights of those who disagree Democratic<br />

theorists have tried to grapple with these problems in various<br />

ways, none of them entirely satisfactory to all people:<br />

• Theorists of elite democracy propose that democracy<br />

is merely a system of choosing among competing<br />

leaders; for the average citizen, input ends after the<br />

leader is chosen. 7 Some proponents of this view<br />

believe that political decisions are made not by elected<br />

officials but by the elite in business, the military,<br />

the media, and education. In this view, elections are<br />

merely symbolic—to perpetuate the illusion that<br />

citizens have consented to their government. Elite<br />

theorists may claim that participation is important, if<br />

not for self-rule, then because people should at least<br />

feel as if they are making a difference. Otherwise they<br />

have no stake in the political system.<br />

popular sovereignty the concept that the citizens are the<br />

ultimate source of political power<br />

Popular Sovereignty<br />

Democracy on the Block<br />

elite democracy a theory of democracy that limits the citizens’<br />

role to choosing among competing leaders<br />

10 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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• Advocates of pluralist democracy argue that what is<br />

important is not so much individual participation<br />

but rather membership in groups that participate<br />

in government decision making on their members’<br />

behalf. 8 As a way of trying to influence a system that<br />

gives them a limited voice, citizens join groups of<br />

people with whom they share an interest, such as labor<br />

unions, professional associations, and environmental or<br />

business groups. These groups represent their members’<br />

interests and try to influence government to enact<br />

policy that carries out the group’s will. Some pluralists<br />

argue that individual citizens have little effective power<br />

and that only when they are organized into groups are<br />

they truly a force for government to reckon with.<br />

• Supporters of participatory democracy claim that<br />

more than consent or majority rule in making<br />

governmental decisions is needed. Individuals have<br />

the right to control all the circumstances of their lives,<br />

and direct democratic participation should take place<br />

not only in government but in industry, education,<br />

and community affairs as well. 9 For advocates of<br />

this view, democracy is more than a way to make<br />

decisions: It is a way of life, an end in itself.<br />

These theories about how democracy should (or does)<br />

work locate the focus of power in individuals, groups, and<br />

elites. Real-world examples of democracy probably include<br />

elements of more than one of these theories; they are not<br />

mutually exclusive.<br />

The people of many Western countries have found the<br />

idea of democracy persuasive enough to found their<br />

governments on it. In recent years, especially since the<br />

mid-1980s, democracy has been spreading rapidly through<br />

the rest of the world as the preferred form of government. No<br />

longer the primary province of industrialized Western nations,<br />

pluralist democracy a theory of democracy that holds that<br />

citizen membership in groups is the key to political power<br />

participatory democracy a theory of democracy that holds that<br />

citizens should actively and directly control all aspects of their lives<br />

advanced industrial democracy a system in which a<br />

democratic government allows citizens a considerable amount of<br />

personal freedom and maintains a free-market (though still usually<br />

regulated) economy<br />

communist democracy a utopian system in which property is<br />

communally owned and all decisions are made democratically<br />

subjects individuals who are obliged to submit to a government<br />

authority against which they have no rights<br />

citizens members of a political community with both rights and<br />

responsibilities<br />

attempts at democratic governance now extend into Asia,<br />

Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the republics of the<br />

former Soviet Union. There are many varieties of democracy<br />

other than our own. Some democracies make the legislature<br />

(the representatives of the people) the most important<br />

authority; some retain a monarch with limited powers; some<br />

hold referenda at the national level to get direct feedback on<br />

how the people want them to act on specific issues.<br />

Most democratic forms of government, because of their<br />

commitment to procedural values, practice a capitalist form of<br />

economics. Fledgling democracies may rely on a high degree of<br />

government economic regulation, but advanced industrial<br />

democracies combine a considerable amount of personal<br />

freedom with a free-market (though still usually regulated)<br />

economy. It is rare to find a country that is truly committed to<br />

individual political freedom that also tries to regulate the<br />

economy heavily. The philosopher Karl Marx believed that<br />

radical democracy would coexist with communally owned<br />

property, in a form of communist democracy, but such a system<br />

has never existed, and most real-world systems fall somewhere<br />

along the horizontal continuum shown in Figure 1.3.<br />

The Role of the People<br />

What is important about the political and economic systems we<br />

have been sorting out here is that they have direct impact on<br />

the lives of the people who live in them. So far we have given a<br />

good deal of attention to the latter parts of Lasswell’s definition<br />

of politics. But easily as important as the what and the how in<br />

Lasswell’s formulation is the who. Underlying the different<br />

political theories we have looked at are fundamental differences<br />

in the powers and opportunities possessed by everyday people.<br />

The People as Subjects<br />

In authoritarian systems, the people are subjects of their<br />

government. They possess no rights that protect them from<br />

that government; they must do whatever the government<br />

says or face the consequences, without any other recourse.<br />

They have obligations to the state but no rights or privileges<br />

to offset those obligations. They may be winners or losers in<br />

government decisions, but they have very little control over<br />

which it may be.<br />

The People as Citizens<br />

Everyday people in democratic systems have a potentially<br />

powerful role to play. They are more than mere subjects;<br />

they are citizens, or members of a political community<br />

with rights as well as obligations. Democratic theory says<br />

Pluralist Democracy in<br />

America<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher<br />

Political Systems and the Concept of Citizenship 11


Figure 1.3<br />

Political and Economic Systems<br />

Communist democracy<br />

Marx’s hope for a system<br />

embracing personal freedom<br />

and a collectively owned<br />

economy.<br />

Has never existed.<br />

Less government control<br />

over individual lives and<br />

the social order<br />

Advanced industrial<br />

democracy<br />

Personal freedom within a<br />

free-market economy<br />

(although usually with some<br />

government regulations).<br />

Examples: United States, Great Britain,<br />

Japan<br />

More government<br />

control of the economy<br />

Less government<br />

control of the economy<br />

Totalitarian system<br />

Government controls<br />

all economic and<br />

individual behavior.<br />

Examples: Former Soviet<br />

Union, North Korea<br />

More government control<br />

over individual lives and<br />

the social order<br />

Authoritarian<br />

capitalism<br />

Government allows market<br />

economy but highly regulates<br />

individual behavior.<br />

Examples: Singapore, China<br />

Political systems work in conjunction with economic systems, but government control over the economy does not necessarily<br />

translate into tight control over the social order. We have identified four possible combinations of these systems, signified by the<br />

labeled points in each quadrant. These points are approximate, however, and some nations cannot be classified so easily. Sweden is<br />

an advanced fig industrial 1.3 democracy by most measures, for instance, but because of its commitment to substantive economic values,<br />

it would be located much closer to the vertical axis.<br />

that power is drawn from the people, that the people<br />

are sovereign, that they must consent to be governed,<br />

and that their government must respond to their will. In<br />

practical terms, this may not seem to mean much, since not<br />

consenting doesn’t necessarily give us the right to disobey<br />

government. It does give us the option of leaving, however,<br />

and seeking a more congenial set of rules elsewhere. Subjects<br />

of authoritarian governments rarely have this freedom.<br />

In democratic systems the rules of government can<br />

provide for all sorts of different roles for citizens. At a<br />

minimum, citizens can usually vote in periodic and free<br />

elections. They may be able to run for office, subject to certain<br />

Democracy in Sweden<br />

conditions, like age or residence. They can support candidates<br />

for office, organize political groups or parties, attend meetings,<br />

write letters to officials or the press, march in protest or<br />

support of various causes, even speak out on street corners.<br />

Theoretically, democracies are ruled by “the people,” but<br />

different democracies have at times been very selective about<br />

whom they count as citizens. Beginning with our days as<br />

colonists, Americans have excluded many groups of people<br />

from citizenship: people of the “wrong” religion, income<br />

bracket, race, ethnic group, lifestyle, and gender have all been<br />

excluded from enjoying the full rights of colonial or U.S.<br />

citizenship at different times. In fact, American history is the<br />

story of those various groups fighting to be included as<br />

citizens. Just because a system is called a democracy is no<br />

guarantee that all or even most of the residents under that<br />

system possess the status of citizen.<br />

12 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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Citizen Rights and Responsibilities<br />

Citizens in democratic systems are said<br />

to possess certain rights, or powers to<br />

act, that government cannot limit. Just<br />

what these rights are varies in different<br />

democracies, but they usually include<br />

freedoms of speech and the press, the right<br />

to assemble, and certain legal protections<br />

guaranteeing fair treatment in the criminal<br />

justice system. Almost all of these rights<br />

are designed to allow citizens to criticize<br />

their government openly without threat of<br />

retribution by that government.<br />

Citizens of democracies also possess<br />

obligations or responsibilities to the public<br />

realm. They have the obligation to obey the<br />

law, for instance, once they have consented to<br />

the government (even if that consent<br />

amounts only to not leaving); they may also<br />

have the obligation to pay taxes, serve in the<br />

military, or sit on juries. Some theorists argue<br />

that virtuous citizens should put community<br />

interests ahead of personal interests. A less<br />

extreme version of this view holds that while<br />

citizens may go about their own business<br />

and pursue their own interests, they must<br />

continue to pay attention to their<br />

government. Participating in its decisionmaking<br />

process is the price of maintaining their own liberty and, by<br />

extension, the liberty of the whole. Should citizens abdicate this role<br />

by tuning out of public life, the safeguards of democracy can<br />

disappear, to be replaced with the trappings of authoritarian<br />

government. There is nothing automatic about democracy. If left<br />

unattended by nonvigilant citizens, the freedoms of democracy can<br />

be lost to an all-powerful state, and citizens can become transformed<br />

into subjects of the government they failed to keep in check.<br />

Origins of Democracy<br />

in America<br />

From divine right to social contract<br />

Government in the United States is the product of particular<br />

decisions the founders made about the who, what, and how<br />

of American politics. There was nothing inevitable about<br />

those decisions, and had the founders decided otherwise,<br />

our system would look very different indeed.<br />

Given the world in which the founders lived, democracy was<br />

not an obvious choice for them, and many scholars argue that in<br />

some respects the system they created is not really very democratic.<br />

Rough Going for the Arab Spring<br />

Protests and revolutions in 2011 across the Arab region brought significant progress toward<br />

democratic government in a number of nations, including Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen.<br />

But the authoritarian government of Syria has brutally suppressed the movement for change,<br />

including killing thousands of its citizens. Pictured is a protest before the Syrian embassy in<br />

Egypt against the violent crackdown in the Syrian city of Homs.<br />

We can see this more clearly if we understand the intellectual<br />

heritage of the early Americans, the historical experience, and the<br />

theories about government that informed them.<br />

The Ancient Greek Experience<br />

The heyday of democracy, of course, was ancient Athens, from<br />

about 500 to 300 BCE. Even Athenian democracy, as we have<br />

already indicated, was a pretty selective business. To be sure,<br />

it was rule by “the people,” but “the people” was defined<br />

narrowly to exclude women, slaves, youth, and resident aliens.<br />

Athenian democracy was not built on values of equality, even of<br />

opportunity, except for the 10 percent of the population defined<br />

as citizens. With its limited number of citizens and its small area<br />

of only one thousand square miles, Athens was a participatory<br />

democracy in which all citizens could gather in one place to<br />

vote on political matters. While this privileged group indulged<br />

its passion for public activity, the vast majority of residents were<br />

required to do all the work to support them. We can see parallels<br />

to early American democracy, which restricted participation in<br />

political affairs to a relatively small number of white men.<br />

Rights and<br />

Responsibilities<br />

of Citizens<br />

Importance<br />

of Civil<br />

Society<br />

Classical<br />

Greek<br />

Democracy<br />

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Origins of Democracy in America 13


• Profiles in Citizenship<br />

Meagan Szydlowski<br />

“Don’t think you are too young or your voice<br />

doesn’t matter. During campaigns they love<br />

young people and their energy and excitement,<br />

and you will be welcomed. . . .”<br />

You don’t hear college students say this<br />

every day, but Meagan Szydlowski loves<br />

politics. Her imagination was captured by<br />

her father’s election to the city council. “I<br />

went to everything I could with him, like<br />

meetings, talking to newspapers and stuff,<br />

and I loved it! It was so exciting,” she says<br />

of her dad’s campaign.<br />

She calls that election her “jump start”—<br />

she has been hooked on politics ever since.<br />

A term as the chair of the Illinois College<br />

Republicans followed, and internships in<br />

her local state representative’s office as<br />

well as in her congressman’s office—a<br />

congressman who just happened to be<br />

Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House<br />

of Representatives. When we caught up<br />

with her, she was spending a summer in<br />

Washington, D.C., having been selected<br />

as one of five participants in Northern<br />

Illinois’s Congressional Internship<br />

Program, working on Capitol Hill, and<br />

loving it.<br />

Szydlowski says she always knew she<br />

was a Republican. “My dad and I talked<br />

about these things,” she says. “Our<br />

conversations were always political.” So<br />

once she got to college at Northern Illinois<br />

University (NIU) and saw a sign that said,<br />

“Join the NIU College Republicans,” she<br />

knew it was for her.<br />

“I went to the first meeting, and it was<br />

perfect,” she says. “It was a great way<br />

to meet people. . . . So I volunteered for<br />

everything they had and went to all the<br />

meetings.” And then the chair at the<br />

time asked her to run for chair for next<br />

year. “And I was like, I’ve only been here<br />

a year, there’s people that’s been here<br />

longer than me, he’s like—no, you are<br />

active, you are involved in things and<br />

I want you to do this.” So she ran and<br />

she won, and spent her sophomore year<br />

running the NIU College Republicans.<br />

Within the year she was being approached<br />

to run as chair of the statewide<br />

organization. She did some research and<br />

decided to take it on, contacting all the<br />

different campus chairs around the state<br />

and developing relationships with them.<br />

It all paid off: “We had a big convention in<br />

downtown Chicago and had a campaign<br />

and I got elected to chairman of the<br />

statewide convention.” She served from<br />

January 2008 to April 2009, also getting to<br />

sit on the national College Republicans’<br />

Executive Committee and serving as a<br />

member of the Illinois Republican Party’s<br />

State Central Committee as a result.<br />

That position involved her in Republican<br />

Party politics around the state, but maybe<br />

the best part of the job included attending<br />

the 2008 Republican National Convention<br />

in Minneapolis that September as an<br />

alternate. She had a blast. The most<br />

exciting event was the night of Sarah<br />

Palin’s speech. Rudy Giuliani spoke first,<br />

and Meagan had been a big supporter of<br />

his, working on his primary campaign,<br />

so she was already fired up, and then<br />

Palin’s speech electrified the crowd. While<br />

disappointed in the outcome of that<br />

election, she’s philosophical, knowing that<br />

in American politics no party stays on top<br />

forever.<br />

Meagan managed to fit a few more<br />

activities into her college career<br />

before she graduated—she studied<br />

in Oxford, England; held a variety of<br />

student government posts; and was a<br />

student research assistant for one of<br />

her professors. She is thinking graduate<br />

school might lie in her future. “I got a<br />

great education at NIU, and I want to<br />

have that influence on other people,”<br />

she says.<br />

What Not running for office herself At<br />

least right now, Meagan is pretty sure<br />

that’s not for her. The scrutiny of public<br />

officials turns her off. But whatever she<br />

ends up doing, she’s confident that it will<br />

involve politics.<br />

Here’s some of her advice for fellow<br />

students:<br />

On majoring in political science:<br />

I’m just really, really happy that I<br />

found something I love so much, and<br />

that I’ve been able to turn it into my<br />

area of study and hopefully a career.<br />

I love this—political science is not just<br />

my major, it is my life—I read all the<br />

newspapers every day, check the web<br />

sites, and watch the news every day. It’s<br />

pretty rewarding.<br />

On keeping the republic:<br />

Keeping the republic is all about<br />

involvement and interest. Don’t be afraid<br />

to get involved right away—don’t think<br />

you are too young or your voice doesn’t<br />

matter. During campaigns they love young<br />

people and their energy and excitement,<br />

and you will be welcomed. . . . Alexander<br />

Hamilton in the Federalist Papers said,<br />

“The ingredients which constitute<br />

safety in the republican sense are a due<br />

dependence on the people, and a due<br />

responsibility.” That basically sums up<br />

how important I think it is for people to be<br />

active and engaged. •<br />

14 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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Politics in the Middle Ages<br />

Limited as Athenian democracy was, it was positively wide<br />

open compared to most of the forms of government that<br />

existed during the Middle Ages, from roughly AD 600 to<br />

1500. During this period, monarchs gradually consolidated<br />

their power over their subjects, and some even challenged<br />

the greatest political power of the time, the Catholic Church.<br />

Some earthly rulers claimed to take their authority from<br />

God, in a principle called the divine right of kings. Privileged<br />

groups in society, like the clergy or the nobles, had some<br />

rights, but ordinary individuals were quite powerless<br />

politically. Subjects of authoritarian governments and an<br />

authoritarian church, they had obligations to their rulers but<br />

no rights they could claim as their own. If a ruler is installed<br />

by divine mandate, who, after all, has any rights against God<br />

Education was restricted, and most people in the Middle Ages<br />

were dependent on political and ecclesiastical leaders for<br />

protection and information, as well as salvation.<br />

The Protestant Reformation<br />

and the Enlightenment<br />

Between 1500 and 1700, important changes took place<br />

in the ways that people thought about politics and their<br />

political leaders. The Protestant Reformation led the way in<br />

the 1500s, claiming essentially that individuals could<br />

pray directly to God and receive salvation on faith alone,<br />

without the church’s involvement. In fact, Martin Luther,<br />

the German priest who spearheaded the Reformation,<br />

argued that the whole complex structure of the medieval<br />

church could be dispensed with. His ideas spread and were<br />

embraced by a number of European monarchs, leading to a<br />

split between Catholic and Protestant countries. Where the<br />

church was seen as unnecessary, it lost political as well as<br />

religious clout, and its decline paved the way for new ideas<br />

about the world.<br />

Those new ideas came with the Enlightenment period of<br />

the late 1600s and 1700s, when ideas about science and the<br />

possibilities of knowledge began to blow away the shadows<br />

and cobwebs of medieval superstition. A new and refreshing<br />

understanding of human beings and their place in the<br />

natural world, based on human reasoning, took hold.<br />

Enlightenment philosophy said that human beings were not<br />

at the mercy of a world they could not understand, but<br />

rather they could learn the secrets of nature and, with<br />

divine right of kings the principle that earthly rulers receive<br />

their authority from God<br />

social contract the notion that society is based on an agreement<br />

between government and the governed in which people agree to<br />

give up some rights in exchange for the protection of others<br />

education as their tool, harness the world to do their<br />

bidding.<br />

Not only did scientific and economic development take<br />

off, but philosophers applied the intoxicating new theories<br />

about the potential of<br />

knowledge to the<br />

political world.<br />

Thomas Hobbes<br />

(who slightly<br />

preceded the<br />

Enlightenment) and<br />

John Locke, both English philosophers, came up with<br />

theories about how government should be established that<br />

discredited divine right. Governments are born not because<br />

God ordains them, but because life without government is<br />

“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” in Hobbes’s words,<br />

and “inconvenient” in Locke’s. The foundation of government<br />

is reason, not faith, and reason leads people to consent to<br />

being governed because they are better off that way.<br />

The idea of citizenship that was born in the<br />

Enlightenment constituted another break with the past.<br />

People have freedom and rights before government exists,<br />

declared Locke. When they decide they are better off with<br />

government than without it, they enter into a social contract,<br />

giving up a few of those rights in exchange for the<br />

protection of the rest of their rights by a government<br />

established by the majority. If that government fails to protect<br />

their rights, then it has broken the contract and the people<br />

are free to form a new government, or not, as they please.<br />

But the key element here is that for authority to be<br />

legitimate, citizens must consent to it. Note, however, that<br />

nowhere did Locke suggest that all people ought to<br />

participate in politics, or that people are necessarily equal. In<br />

fact, he was concerned mostly with the preservation of<br />

private property, suggesting that only property owners would<br />

have cause to be bothered with government because only<br />

they have something concrete to lose.<br />

Sources of Democracy Closer to Home<br />

While philosophers in Europe were beginning to explore<br />

the idea of individual rights and democratic governance,<br />

there had long been democratic stirrings on the founders’<br />

home continent. The Iroquois Confederacy was an alliance<br />

of five (and eventually six) East Coast Native American<br />

nations whose constitution, the “Great Law of Peace,”<br />

impressed American leaders such as Benjamin Franklin with<br />

its suggestions of federalism, separation of powers, checks<br />

and balances, and consensus building. Although historians<br />

Protestant<br />

Reformation<br />

Thinking Outside the Box<br />

Do subjects enjoy<br />

any advantages that<br />

citizens don’t have<br />

The<br />

Enlightenment<br />

John<br />

Locke Bio<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher<br />

Origins of Democracy in America 15


• Don’t Be Fooled by . . . Your Textbook<br />

Consider these two passages describing<br />

the same familiar event: Christopher<br />

Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. 1<br />

From a 1947 textbook:<br />

At last the rulers of Spain gave Columbus<br />

three small ships, and he sailed away to<br />

the west across the Atlantic Ocean. His<br />

sailors became frightened. They were<br />

sure the ships would come to the edge of<br />

the world and just fall off into space. The<br />

sailors were ready to throw their captain<br />

into the ocean and turn around and go<br />

back. Then, at last they all saw the land<br />

ahead. They saw low green shores with tall<br />

palm trees swaying in the wind. Columbus<br />

had found the New World. This happened<br />

on October 12, 1492. It was a great day for<br />

Who Gets to Write Public School<br />

Textbooks<br />

How Texas Influences What’s in<br />

Your Textbooks<br />

Christopher Columbus—and for the whole<br />

world as well.<br />

And from a 1991 text:<br />

When Columbus stepped ashore on<br />

Guanahani Island in October 1492, he<br />

planted the Spanish flag in the sand<br />

and claimed the land as a possession of<br />

Ferdinand and Isabella. He did so despite<br />

the obvious fact that the island already<br />

belonged to someone else—the “Indians”<br />

who gathered on the beach to gaze with<br />

wonder at the strangers who had suddenly<br />

arrived in three great, white-winged<br />

canoes. He gave no thought to the rights<br />

of the local inhabitants. Nearly every later<br />

explorer—French, English, Dutch and<br />

all the others as well as the Spanish—<br />

thoughtlessly dismissed the people they<br />

encountered. What we like to think of as<br />

the discovery of America was actually the<br />

invasion and conquest of America.<br />

Which one of these passages is “true” The<br />

first was the conventional textbook wisdom<br />

through the 1950s and 1960s in America.<br />

The latter reflects a growing criticism<br />

that traditional American history has<br />

been told from the perspective of history’s<br />

“winners,” largely white middle-class<br />

males of European background. Together<br />

they highlight the point that history does<br />

vary depending on who is telling it, and<br />

when they are telling it, and even to whom<br />

they are telling it. The telling of history is<br />

a potent political act, as one recent study<br />

explains, citing George Orwell’s 1984 that<br />

“who controls the past controls the future.” 2<br />

What this means to you is that the critical<br />

vigilance we urge you to apply to all the<br />

information that regularly bombards you<br />

should be applied to your textbooks as well.<br />

And, yes, that means this textbook, too.<br />

There is some truth to the idea that history<br />

is written by the winners, but it is also true<br />

that the winners change over time. If history<br />

was once securely in the hands of the white<br />

European male, it is now the battleground<br />

of a cultural war between those who believe<br />

the old way of telling (and teaching) history<br />

was accurate, and those who believe it<br />

left out the considerable achievements of<br />

are not sure that these ideas had any direct influence on the<br />

founders’ thinking about American governance, they were<br />

clearly part of the stew of ideas that the founders could dip<br />

in to, and some scholars make the case that their influence<br />

was significant. 10<br />

• Citizenship in America<br />

The tension between a self-interested nature<br />

and a public-interested ideal<br />

For our purposes, the most important thing about these ideas<br />

about politics is that they were prevalent at the same time<br />

James Madison Bio<br />

the American founders were thinking about how to build a<br />

new government. Locke particularly influenced the writings<br />

of James Madison, a major author of our Constitution. The<br />

founders wanted to base their new government on popular<br />

consent, but they did not want to go too far. Madison, as we<br />

will see, was particularly worried about a system that was<br />

too democratic.<br />

The Dangers of Democracy<br />

Enthusiastic popular participation under the government<br />

established by the Articles of Confederation—the document<br />

that tied the colonies together before the Constitution was<br />

drafted—almost ended the new government before it began.<br />

Like Locke, Madison thought government had a duty to<br />

protect property, and if people who didn’t have property<br />

could get involved in politics, they might not care about<br />

protecting the property of others. Worse, they might form<br />

16 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


women and minorities and masked some of<br />

the less admirable episodes of our past in<br />

order to glorify our heritage. 3 For instance,<br />

one author in the 1990s studied twelve high<br />

school history textbooks and documented<br />

areas where he felt the “history” was<br />

inaccurate or misleading. His criticism<br />

includes claims that history textbooks<br />

create heroic figures by emphasizing the<br />

positive aspects of their lives and ignoring<br />

their less admirable traits; that they create<br />

myths about the American founding that<br />

glorify Anglo-European settlers at the<br />

expense of the Native Americans and<br />

Spanish settlers who were already here;<br />

that they virtually ignore racism and its<br />

opponents, minimizing its deep and lasting<br />

effects on our culture; that they neglect the<br />

recent past; and that they idealize progress<br />

and the exceptional role America plays in<br />

the world, skipping over very real problems<br />

and issues of concern. 4<br />

The question of bias in textbooks is not<br />

reserved for history books; this textbook<br />

itself has a point of view. In these pages<br />

we have an interest in highlighting the<br />

issues of power and citizenship, and in<br />

focusing on the impact of the rules in<br />

American politics. In addition, we take<br />

a multicultural approach. We do not<br />

ignore or disparage the achievements<br />

of the traditional heroes of American<br />

history, but we do not think that their<br />

outstanding political accomplishments<br />

warrant ignoring the contributions, also<br />

substantial, of people who have not<br />

traditionally been politically powerful.<br />

The fact that all textbooks have some sort of<br />

bias means you must be as critically careful<br />

in what you accept from textbook authors<br />

as you are (or should be) in what you accept<br />

from any other scholars, newspaper writers,<br />

or other media commentators.<br />

WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR<br />

Here are some things you can think about<br />

when you are reading a textbook.<br />

· The author’s point of view. Where is<br />

the author coming from Does he or<br />

she promote particular values or<br />

ideas Are any points of view left out<br />

of the story being told<br />

· The book’s audience. If it is a big,<br />

colorful book, it is probably aimed at a<br />

wide market. If so, what might that<br />

say about its content If it is a smaller<br />

book with a narrower focus, who is it<br />

trying to appeal to<br />

· Use of evidence. If it backs up an<br />

argument with plenty of facts from<br />

reputable sources, then perhaps its<br />

claims are true, even if they are<br />

surprising or unfamiliar to you. Do the<br />

authors make an effort to cover both<br />

sides of an issue or controversy Read<br />

the footnotes, and if something troubles<br />

you, locate the primary source (the one<br />

the authors relied on) and read it yourself.<br />

· Your own reactions. Did the book<br />

cause you to look at a subject in a new<br />

way Are its conclusions surprising<br />

Exciting Troublesome What is the<br />

source of your reaction Is it<br />

intellectual, or emotional What<br />

caused you to react this way<br />

1. These two passages were cited in a chart<br />

accompanying Sam Dillon, “Schools Growing Harsher<br />

in Scrutiny of Columbus,” New York Times, October 12,<br />

1992, 4, web version. The first paragraph is from Merlin<br />

M. Ames, My Country (Sacramento: California State<br />

Department of Education, 1947); the second is from<br />

John A. Garraty, The Story of America (New York: Holt<br />

Rinehart Winston, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991).<br />

2. Laura Hein and Mark Seldon, eds., Censoring History:<br />

Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the<br />

United States (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2000).<br />

3. Frances Fitzgerald, America Revised (New York: Vintage<br />

Books, 1979).<br />

4. James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me (New York:<br />

New <strong>Press</strong>, 1995). •<br />

“factions,” groups pursuing their own self-interests rather<br />

than the public interest, and even try to get some of that<br />

property for themselves. So Madison rejected notions of<br />

“pure democracy,” in which all citizens would have direct<br />

power to control government, and opted instead for what he<br />

called a “republic.”<br />

A republic, according to Madison, differs from a<br />

democracy mainly in that it employs representation and can<br />

work in a large state. Most theorists agree that democracy is<br />

impossible in practice if there are a lot of citizens and all have<br />

to be heard from. But we do not march to Washington or<br />

phone our legislator every time we want to register a political<br />

preference. Instead, we choose representatives—members of<br />

republic a government in which decisions are made through<br />

representatives of the people<br />

the House of Representatives, senators, and the president—to<br />

represent our views for us. Madison thought this would be a<br />

safer system than direct participation (all of us crowding into<br />

town halls or the Capitol) because public passions would be<br />

cooled off by the process. You might be furious about health<br />

care costs when you vote for your senator, but he or she will<br />

represent your views with less anger. The founders hoped<br />

that the representatives would be older, wealthier, and wiser<br />

than the average American, and that they would be better<br />

able to make cool and rational decisions.<br />

Madison’s Vision of Citizenship<br />

The notion of citizenship that emerges from Madison’s<br />

writings is not a very flattering one for the average American,<br />

and it is important to note that it is not the only ideal of<br />

citizenship in the American political tradition. Madison’s<br />

low expectations of the American public were a reaction<br />

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Origins of Democracy in America 17


Citizenship as Volunteerism<br />

Although Americans emphasize the individual, they don’t always shun collective action.<br />

Habitat for Humanity provides good housing for those in need. It is one of many such<br />

examples of volunteerism and civic virtue that show that there is more to citizenship in<br />

America than simple self-interest.<br />

to an earlier tradition that had put great faith in the ability<br />

of democratic man to put the interests of the community<br />

ahead of his own, to act with what scholars call “republican<br />

virtue.” According to this idea, a virtuous citizen could be<br />

trusted with the most serious of political decisions because<br />

if he (women were not citizens at that time, of course) were<br />

properly educated and kept from the influence of scandal<br />

and corruption, he would be willing to sacrifice his own<br />

advancement for the sake of the whole. His decisions would<br />

be guided not by his self-interest but by his public-interested<br />

spirit. At the time of the founding, hope was strong that,<br />

although the court of the British monarch had become<br />

corrupt beyond redemption, America was still a land where<br />

virtue could triumph over greed. In fact, for many people this<br />

was a crucial argument for American independence: severing<br />

the ties would prevent that corruption from creeping across<br />

the Atlantic and would allow the new country to keep its<br />

virtuous political nature free from the British taint. 11<br />

When democratic rules that relied on the virtue, or<br />

public interestedness, of the American citizen were put into<br />

effect, however, especially in the days immediately after<br />

JFK “Ask Not” Speech<br />

independence, these expectations<br />

seemed to be doomed. Instead of acting<br />

for the good of the community,<br />

Americans seemed to be just as selfinterested<br />

as the British had been. When<br />

given nearly free rein to rule themselves,<br />

they had no trouble remembering the<br />

rights of citizenship but ignored the<br />

responsibilities that come with it. They<br />

passed laws in state legislatures that<br />

canceled debts and contracts and<br />

otherwise worked to the advantage of<br />

the poor majority of farmers and<br />

debtors—and that seriously threatened<br />

the economic and political stability of<br />

the more well-to-do. It was in this<br />

context of national disappointment that<br />

Madison devised his notion of the<br />

republic. Since people had proved, so he<br />

thought, not to be activated by virtue, a<br />

government was needed that would<br />

produce virtuous results, regardless of<br />

the character of the citizens who<br />

participated in it.<br />

American Citizenship Today<br />

Today two competing views of citizenship still exist in the<br />

United States. One, echoing Madison, sees human nature<br />

as self-interested and holds that individual participation in<br />

government should be limited, that “too much” democracy<br />

is a bad thing. The second view continues to put its faith<br />

in the citizen’s ability to act virtuously, not just for his or<br />

her own good but for the common good. President John<br />

F. Kennedy movingly evoked such a view in his inaugural<br />

address in 1960, when he urged Americans to “ask not<br />

what your country can do for you—ask what you can<br />

do for your country.” These views of citizenship have<br />

coexisted throughout our history. Especially in times of<br />

crisis such as war or national tragedy, the second view of<br />

individual sacrifice for the public good has seemed more<br />

prominent. In the wake of September 11, 2001, citizens<br />

freely gave their time and money to help their fellow<br />

countrypeople and were more willing to join the military<br />

and volunteer for community service. At other times, and<br />

particularly at the national level of politics, the dominant<br />

view of citizenship has appeared to be one of self-interested<br />

actors going about their own business with little regard for<br />

the public good, especially at moments such as the one in<br />

2011 when a stand-off between the president and Congress<br />

brought the nation to the brink of economic default for<br />

18 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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Thinking Outside the Box<br />

When, if ever, should<br />

individuals be asked to<br />

sacrifice their own good<br />

for that of their country<br />

the sake of a political<br />

dispute. When observers<br />

claim, as they often<br />

do today, that there is<br />

a crisis of American<br />

citizenship, they usually<br />

mean that civic virtue is<br />

taking second place to<br />

self-interest as a guiding principle of citizenship.<br />

These two notions of citizenship do not necessarily have<br />

to be at loggerheads, however. Where self-interest and public<br />

spirit meet in democratic practice is in the process of<br />

deliberation, collectively considering and evaluating goals and<br />

ideals for communal life and action. Individuals bring their<br />

own agendas and interests, but in the process of discussing<br />

them with others holding different views, parties can find<br />

common ground and turn it into a base for collective action.<br />

Conflict can erupt, too, of course, but the process of<br />

deliberation at least creates a forum from which the possibility<br />

of consensus might emerge. Scholar and journalist E. J. Dionne<br />

reflects on this possibility: “At the heart of republicanism<br />

[remember that this is not a reference to our modern parties]<br />

is the belief that self-government is not a drab necessity but a<br />

joy to be treasured. It is the view that politics is not simply a<br />

grubby confrontation of competing interests but an arena in<br />

which citizens can learn from each other and discover an<br />

‘enlightened self-interest’ in common.” Despite evidence of a<br />

growing American disaffection for politics, Dionne hopes that<br />

Americans will find again the “joy” in self-governance<br />

because, he warns, “A nation that hates politics will not long<br />

thrive as a democracy.” 12<br />

Thinking Critically<br />

About American Politics<br />

How to use the themes and features in<br />

this book<br />

Our primary goal in this book is to get you thinking critically<br />

about American politics. Critical thinking is a crucial skill to<br />

learn no matter what training your major or career plans call<br />

for. As we discuss in the Consider the Source box in this chapter,<br />

critical thinking is the analysis and evaluation of ideas and<br />

arguments based on reason and evidence—it means digging<br />

deep into what you read and what you hear and asking tough<br />

questions. Critical thinking is what all good scholars do, and<br />

it is also what savvy citizens do.<br />

As Figure 1.4 on page 22 illustrates, our analytic and<br />

evaluative tasks in this book focus on the twin themes of<br />

power and citizenship. We have adopted the classic definition<br />

of politics proposed by the late political scientist Harold<br />

Lasswell that politics is “who gets what when and how.” We<br />

simplify his understanding by dropping the when and focusing<br />

on politics as the struggle by citizens over who gets power and<br />

resources in society and how they get them, although we do<br />

occasionally use timelines to illustrate how the struggle for<br />

power and resources can change dramatically over time.<br />

Analysis<br />

Lasswell’s definition of politics gives us a framework of<br />

analysis for this book; that is, it outlines how we break down<br />

politics into its component parts in order to understand<br />

it. Analysis helps us understand how something works,<br />

much like taking apart a car and putting it back together<br />

again helps us understand how it runs. Lasswell’s definition<br />

provides a strong analytic framework because it focuses our<br />

attention on questions we can ask to figure out what is going<br />

on in politics.<br />

Accordingly, in this book, we analyze American politics<br />

in terms of three sets of questions:<br />

• Who are the parties involved What resources,<br />

powers, and rights do they bring to the struggle<br />

• What do they have at stake What do they stand to<br />

win or lose Is it power, influence, position, policy, or<br />

values<br />

• How do the rules shape the outcome Where do the<br />

rules come from What strategies or tactics do the<br />

political actors employ to use the rules to get what<br />

they want<br />

If you know who is involved in a political situation,<br />

what is at stake, and how (under what rules) the conflict<br />

over resources will eventually be resolved, you will have a<br />

pretty good grasp of what is going on, and you will<br />

probably be able to figure out new situations, even when<br />

your days of taking a course in American government are far<br />

behind you. To get you in the habit of asking those<br />

questions, we have designed several features in this text<br />

explicitly to reinforce them.<br />

As you found at the start of your reading, each chapter<br />

opens with a What’s at Stake . . . feature that analyzes a<br />

political situation in terms of what various groups of citizens<br />

stand to win or lose. Each chapter ends with a Let’s Revisit<br />

feature, where we return to the issues raised in the<br />

introduction, once you have the substantive material of the<br />

chapter under your belt. We also focus our analysis along the<br />

Decline<br />

of Civic<br />

Virtue<br />

E. J. Dionne<br />

Critical<br />

Thinking<br />

Test<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher<br />

Thinking Critically About American Politics 19


• CLUES to Critical Thinking<br />

Thinking Like a Political Scientist<br />

This book is an introduction to American<br />

politics, and in a way it is also an<br />

introduction to political science. Political<br />

science is not exactly the same kind of<br />

science as biology or geology. Not only is<br />

it difficult to put our subjects (people and<br />

political systems) under a microscope<br />

to observe their behavior, but we are<br />

somewhat limited in our ability to test<br />

our theories. We cannot replay World War<br />

II to test our ideas about what caused<br />

it, for example. A further problem is our<br />

subjectivity; we are the phenomena<br />

under investigation, and so we may have<br />

stronger feelings about our research and<br />

our findings than we would, say, about<br />

cells and rocks.<br />

These difficulties do not make a science of<br />

politics impossible, but they do mean we<br />

must proceed with caution. Even among<br />

political scientists, disagreement exists<br />

about whether a rigorous science of the<br />

political world is a reasonable goal. We<br />

can agree, however, that it is possible to<br />

advance our understanding of politics<br />

beyond mere guessing or debates about<br />

political preferences. Although we use<br />

many methods in our work (statistical<br />

analysis, mathematical modeling, case<br />

studies, and philosophical reasoning, to<br />

name only a few), what political scientists<br />

have in common is an emphasis on critical<br />

thinking about politics.<br />

Critical thinking means challenging the<br />

conclusions of others, asking why or<br />

why not, turning the accepted wisdom<br />

upside down, and exploring alternative<br />

interpretations. It means considering the<br />

sources of information—not accepting<br />

an explanation just because someone<br />

in authority offers it, or because you<br />

have always been told that it is the<br />

true explanation, but because you have<br />

discovered independently that there<br />

are good reasons for accepting it. You<br />

may emerge from reading this textbook<br />

with the same ideas about politics that<br />

you have always had; it is not our goal<br />

to change your mind. But as a critical<br />

thinker, you will be able to back up your<br />

old ideas with new and persuasive<br />

arguments of your own, or to move<br />

beyond your current ideas to see politics<br />

in a new light.<br />

Becoming adept at critical thinking has a<br />

number of benefits:<br />

••<br />

We learn to be good democratic<br />

citizens. Critical thinking helps us sort<br />

through the barrage of information<br />

that regularly assails us, and it<br />

teaches us to process this information<br />

thoughtfully. Critical awareness of<br />

what our leaders are doing and the<br />

ability to understand and evaluate<br />

what they tell us is the lifeblood of<br />

democratic government.<br />

••<br />

We are better able to hold our own in<br />

political (or other) arguments: we think<br />

more logically and clearly, we are more<br />

persuasive, and we impress people<br />

with our grasp of reason and fact. There<br />

is not a career in the world that is not<br />

enhanced by critical thinking skills.<br />

••<br />

We become much better students.<br />

The skills of the critical thinker are not<br />

just the skills of the good citizen; they<br />

are the skills of the scholar. When we<br />

read critically we figure out what is<br />

important quickly and easily, we know<br />

what questions to ask to tease out<br />

more meaning, we can decide whether<br />

what we are reading is worth our time,<br />

and we know what to take with us and<br />

what to discard.<br />

Although it may sound a little dull and<br />

dusty, critical thinking can be a vital and<br />

enjoyable activity. When we are good at<br />

it, it empowers and liberates us. We are<br />

not at the mercy of others’ conclusions<br />

and decisions. We can evaluate facts<br />

and arguments for ourselves, turning<br />

conventional wisdom upside down<br />

and exploring the world of ideas with<br />

confidence.<br />

How does one learn to<br />

think critically<br />

The trick to learning how to think<br />

critically is to do it. It helps to have<br />

a model to follow, however, and we<br />

provide one below. The focus of critical<br />

thinking here is on understanding<br />

political argument. Argument in this<br />

case refers not to a confrontation<br />

or a fight, but rather to a political<br />

contention, based on a set of<br />

assumptions, supported by evidence,<br />

leading to a clear, well-developed<br />

conclusion with consequences for how<br />

we understand the world.<br />

Critical thinking involves constantly<br />

asking questions about the arguments<br />

we read: Who has created it, what is<br />

the basic case and what values underlie<br />

it, what evidence is used to back it up,<br />

what conclusions are drawn, and what<br />

difference does the whole thing make<br />

To help you remember the questions to<br />

ask, we have used a mnemonic device<br />

that creates an acronym from the five<br />

major steps of critical thinking. Until<br />

asking these questions becomes second<br />

nature, thinking of them as CLUES to<br />

critical thinking about American politics<br />

will help you keep them in mind. To help<br />

you develop the critical thinking habit,<br />

20 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


eadings featured in each chapter of this<br />

book will provide a CLUES model for you to<br />

follow.<br />

This is what CLUES stands for:<br />

••<br />

Consider the source and the audience<br />

••<br />

Lay out the argument and the<br />

underlying values and assumptions<br />

••<br />

Uncover the evidence<br />

••<br />

Evaluate the conclusion<br />

••<br />

Sort out the political implications<br />

We’ll investigate each of these steps in a<br />

little more depth.<br />

Consider the source and<br />

the audience<br />

Who wrote the argument in question<br />

Where did the item appear What<br />

audience is it directed toward What<br />

does the author or publisher need to do to<br />

attract and keep the audience How might<br />

that affect content<br />

If the person is a mainstream<br />

journalist, he or she probably has a<br />

reputation as an objective reporter to<br />

preserve, and will at least make an<br />

honest attempt to provide unbiased<br />

information. Even so, knowing the<br />

actual news source will help you nail<br />

that down. Even in a reputable national<br />

newspaper like the New York Times<br />

or the Wall Street Journal, if the item<br />

comes from the editorial pages, you can<br />

count on its having an ideological point<br />

of view—usually (but not exclusively)<br />

liberal in the case of the Times,<br />

conservative in the case of the Wall<br />

Street Journal. Opinion magazines will<br />

have even more blatant points of view.<br />

Readers go to those sources looking for<br />

a particular perspective, and that may<br />

affect the reliability of the information<br />

you find.<br />

Lay out the argument,<br />

the values, and the assumptions<br />

What basic argument does the author<br />

want to make What assumptions about<br />

the world does he or she make What<br />

values does he or she hold about what is<br />

important and what government should<br />

do Are all the important terms clearly<br />

defined<br />

If these things aren’t clear to you, the<br />

author may be unclear about them,<br />

too. There is a lot of sloppy thinking<br />

out there, and being able to identify<br />

it and discard it is valuable. You may<br />

be intimidated by a smart-sounding<br />

argument, only to discover on closer<br />

examination that it just doesn’t hold up.<br />

A more insidious situation occurs when<br />

the author is trying to obscure the point<br />

to get you to sign on to something that<br />

you might not otherwise accept. If the<br />

argument, values, and assumptions are<br />

not perfectly clear and up front, there<br />

may be a hidden agenda you should<br />

know about. You don’t want to be<br />

persuaded by someone who claims to be<br />

an advocate for democracy, only to find<br />

out that democracy means something<br />

completely different to him or her than it<br />

does to you.<br />

Uncover the evidence<br />

Has the author done basic research to<br />

back up his or her argument with facts<br />

and evidence<br />

Good arguments cannot be based on gut<br />

feelings, rumor, or wishful thinking. They<br />

should be based on hard evidence, either<br />

empirical, verifiable observations about<br />

the world or solid, logical reasoning. If the<br />

argument is worth being held, it should<br />

stand up to rigorous examination, and<br />

the author should be able to defend it on<br />

these grounds. If the evidence or logic<br />

is missing, the argument can usually be<br />

dismissed.<br />

Evaluate the conclusion<br />

Is the argument successful Does it<br />

convince you Why or why not Does it<br />

change your mind about any beliefs you<br />

held previously Does accepting this<br />

argument require you to rethink any of<br />

your other beliefs<br />

Conclusions should follow logically<br />

from the assumptions and values of an<br />

argument, if solid evidence and reasoning<br />

support it. What is the conclusion here<br />

What is the author asking you to accept<br />

as the product of his or her argument<br />

Does it make sense to you Do you “buy<br />

it” If you do, does it fit with your other<br />

ideas, or do you need to refine what you<br />

previously thought Have you learned<br />

from this argument, or have you merely<br />

had your own beliefs reinforced<br />

Sort out the political implications<br />

What is the political significance of this<br />

argument What difference does it make<br />

to your understanding of the way the<br />

political world works How does it affect<br />

who gets what scarce resources and how<br />

they get them How does it affect who<br />

wins in the political process and who<br />

loses<br />

Political news is valuable if it means<br />

something. If it doesn’t, it may entertain<br />

you, but essentially it wastes your time<br />

if it claims to be something more than<br />

entertainment. Make the information you<br />

get prove its importance, and if it doesn’t,<br />

find a different news source to rely on.<br />

Source: Adapted from the authors’ “Preface to the<br />

Student,” in Christine Barbour and Matthew J. Streb, eds.,<br />

Clued in to Politics: A Critical Thinking Reader in American<br />

Government, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC:<br />

<strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, 2010). •<br />

Thinking Critically About American Politics 21<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


Figure 1.4<br />

Themes and Goal of This Book<br />

Goal of<br />

the book<br />

Skills to reach<br />

the goal<br />

Themes through<br />

which these<br />

skills are applied<br />

way by closing each major chapter section, beginning in<br />

<strong>Chapter</strong> fig 1.42, with a Who, What, How feature that explicitly<br />

addresses the questions of who gets what, and how they get<br />

it, and concisely summarizes what you have learned. We<br />

reinforce the task of analysis with a Don’t Be Fooled feature that<br />

discusses ways you can improve your critical thinking skills<br />

by analyzing (that is, taking apart) different kinds of sources<br />

of information about politics. Similarly, CLUES to Critical<br />

Thinking features in each chapter provide a text that is central<br />

to the substantive material you are learning to give you some<br />

practice in using the critical thinking model we described on<br />

pages 20–21. Finally, Thinking Outside the Box questions, found<br />

throughout each chapter, help you take the analysis one step<br />

further: What if the rules or the actors or the stakes were<br />

different What would be the impact on American politics<br />

How would it work differently<br />

Evaluation<br />

Analysis of how the<br />

American political<br />

system works<br />

Power (who,<br />

what, and how)<br />

As political scientists, however, we not only want to<br />

understand how the system works, we also want to assess how<br />

well it works. A second task of critical thinking is evaluation,<br />

or seeing how well something measures up according to<br />

a standard or principle. We could choose any number of<br />

standards by which to evaluate American politics, but the<br />

most relevant, for most of us, is the principle of democracy<br />

and the role of citizens.<br />

How to Think Critically<br />

Critical thinking<br />

about American<br />

politics<br />

Evaluation of how<br />

well the political<br />

system is working<br />

Citizenship<br />

(participation<br />

and diversity)<br />

Franklin on a Republic<br />

We can draw on the two traditions of self-interested and<br />

public-interested citizenship we have discussed to evaluate the<br />

powers, opportunities, and challenges presented to American<br />

citizens by the system of government under which they live. In<br />

addition to the two competing threads of citizenship in<br />

America, we can also look at the kinds of action that citizens<br />

engage in and whether they take advantage of the options<br />

available to them. For instance, citizen action might be restricted<br />

by the rules, or by popular interest, to merely choosing<br />

between competing candidates for office, as in the model of elite<br />

democracy described earlier. Alternatively, the rules of the system<br />

might encourage citizens to band together in groups to get what<br />

they want, as they do in pluralist democracy. Or the system might be<br />

open and offer highly motivated citizens a variety of<br />

opportunities to get involved, as they do in participatory democracy.<br />

American democracy has elements of all three of these models,<br />

and one way to evaluate citizenship in America is to look at<br />

what opportunities for each type of participation exist and<br />

whether citizens take advantage of them.<br />

To evaluate how democratic the United States is, we look<br />

at the changing concept and practice of citizenship in this<br />

country with respect to the subject matter of most chapters in a<br />

section called The Citizens and . . . . That feature looks at<br />

citizenship from<br />

many angles,<br />

considering the<br />

following types of<br />

questions: What role<br />

do “the people” have<br />

in American politics<br />

Thinking Outside the Box<br />

Why does critical thinking<br />

feel like so much more work<br />

than “regular thinking”<br />

How has that role expanded or diminished over time What<br />

kinds of political participation do the rules of American politics<br />

(formal and informal) allow, encourage, or require citizens to<br />

take What kinds of political participation are discouraged,<br />

limited, or forbidden Do citizens take advantage of the<br />

opportunities for political action that the rules provide them<br />

How do they react to the rules that limit their participation<br />

How have citizens in different times exercised their rights and<br />

responsibilities What do citizens need to do to “keep” the<br />

republic How democratic is the United States<br />

To put all this in perspective, the book includes two<br />

other features that give you a more concrete idea of what<br />

citizen participation might mean on a personal level. In each<br />

chapter, Profiles in Citizenship introduce you to individuals who<br />

have committed a good part of their lives to public service<br />

and focus on what citizenshi p means to those people and<br />

what inspired them to take on a public role. Who Are We<br />

provides some demographic data to bring the diversity of the<br />

American citizenry front and center and highlight the<br />

difficulties inherent in uniting into a single nation individuals<br />

and groups with such different and often conflicting<br />

interests.<br />

22 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


We have outlined nine features that recur throughout<br />

this book. Remember that each is designed to help you to<br />

think critically about American politics either by analyzing<br />

power in terms of who gets what, and how, or by evaluating<br />

citizenship to determine how well we are keeping Benjamin<br />

Franklin’s mandate to keep the republic. And remember that<br />

further exploration of the book’s themes is always available<br />

on the companion web site at http://republic.cqpress.com.<br />

Take the <strong>Chapter</strong> Quiz<br />

Let’s Revisit:<br />

We began this chapter looking at the<br />

problem of youthful disengagement<br />

from politics and the rise of the Occupy<br />

movement in 2011 and asked, What<br />

is at stake in taking it to the streets<br />

Does getting oneself arrested marching<br />

across the Brooklyn Bridge count as<br />

“keeping the republic” Since then, we<br />

have covered a lot of ground, arguing<br />

that politics is fundamental to human<br />

life and, in fact, makes life easier for us<br />

by giving us a nonviolent way to resolve<br />

disputes. We pointed out that politics is<br />

a method by which power and resources<br />

get distributed in society: politics is who<br />

gets what and how they get it. Citizens<br />

who are aware and involved stand a much<br />

better chance of getting what they want<br />

from the system than those who check<br />

out or turn away. One clear consequence<br />

when young people disregard politics,<br />

then, is that they are far less likely to get<br />

what they want from the political system.<br />

This is exactly what happens.<br />

So what does that mean for the<br />

Occupy protesters in Zuccotti Park and<br />

across the nation Were they really<br />

the disorganized, leaderless bunch of<br />

radicals their critics implied they were,<br />

or were they engaged in something more<br />

intentional and, perhaps, democratic<br />

It’s worth listening to Occupy protestor<br />

Matt Brandi on this at some length:<br />

The strategy of civil disobedience and<br />

protest is one that many don’t understand.<br />

You often hear people disparage Occupy<br />

as lacking a clear objective or specific<br />

message. . . . If the movement restricts<br />

itself to a single point of policy (like the<br />

Tea Party did with spending cuts and the<br />

deficit) the imperative for action moves<br />

from the hands of the people to politicians<br />

in Washington. . . . From the very start<br />

Occupy was adamant about avoiding<br />

such a situation. This is why we have no<br />

hierarchical structure, no list of “demands,”<br />

and have avoided focusing on voting drives,<br />

writing letters to your congressman, and<br />

all the usual suggestions focused on the<br />

political arena. What was interpreted as<br />

a lack of discipline and a clear message is<br />

really quite the opposite.<br />

The objective of Occupy was to change<br />

the direction of the national dialogue<br />

and debate. First you have to understand<br />

that there is constantly a national<br />

dialogue going on, in the media, on the<br />

Internet, between friends at the mall,<br />

and politicians in Congress. We are all<br />

increasingly connected and tend to talk<br />

about the same things. The national<br />

dialogue and the debate in Washington<br />

are closely connected, since politicians<br />

want to be talking about the same<br />

issues that their constituents are talking<br />

about. If you can change the national<br />

dialogue, you can change the very<br />

nature of the debate in government,<br />

far more effectively than if you were to<br />

simply write letters to Congress, start<br />

a petition, or make phone calls. In fact,<br />

letters, phone calls, and petitions are all<br />

generated by, and measure, the national<br />

dialogue, not vice versa.<br />

By appearing in strong numbers<br />

and generating media interest (both<br />

new/social and commercial/mass),<br />

Occupy was able to influence the<br />

national dialogue. We protested<br />

about inequality and exploitation,<br />

the corruption of our government by<br />

wealth and influence; and while we did<br />

not make “demands,” people began<br />

to talk about inequality, exploitation,<br />

and the corruption of democracy. The<br />

very way people talked and thought<br />

about these issues changed.<br />

What Matt is suggesting was at stake<br />

for the Occupy protesters was, in the<br />

language of political scientists, agenda<br />

setting. A problem not defined as a<br />

problem, or not on the national agenda,<br />

cannot be solved by public action. By<br />

defining income inequality, which many<br />

of us simply took for granted, as a<br />

problem in need of a solution, Occupy<br />

did indeed change the conversation.<br />

In fact, it is arguable that the Occupy<br />

protesters had as much or more power<br />

than they would have had if they had<br />

confined their participation to voting,<br />

since they actually helped set the<br />

choices that people faced at the ballot<br />

box. Because many Republicans and<br />

even quite a few Democrats are heavily<br />

indebted to the financial industry, neither<br />

was likely to point out the problems<br />

generated by it unless prodded by some<br />

external event or action. By doing that<br />

prodding, Occupy convinced at least the<br />

Democrats that they needed to respond<br />

to these constituent concerns.<br />

You only needed to listen to the<br />

debates between President Obama<br />

and his 2012 Republican challenger,<br />

Mitt Romney, to see that both<br />

candidates were participating in the<br />

conversation Occupy had begun. The<br />

two disagreed on how the federal<br />

tax burden should be distributed,<br />

with the president arguing that the<br />

wealthy should pay a higher share<br />

and Romney maintaining that higher<br />

taxes would inhibit the ability of<br />

“job creators” to grow the economy.<br />

The Elusive<br />

Youth Vote<br />

Rock the<br />

Vote<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


Romney’s comment, caught on a<br />

video of a fundraiser, that 47 percent<br />

of Americans paid no taxes and could<br />

not be convinced to take responsibility<br />

for themselves only underscored the<br />

two parties’ different views of income<br />

inequality.<br />

By the time the ballots were counted<br />

on November 7, the answer to whether<br />

young people would turn out in 2012<br />

as they had in 2008 was answered.<br />

Early estimates were that youth<br />

turnout had gone up—19 percent<br />

of the electorate was eighteen to<br />

twenty-nine years of age, and they<br />

split for Obama 60 to 36 percent. But<br />

the commitment to more conventional<br />

means of participation did not mean<br />

the spirit of Occupy had been lost.<br />

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East<br />

Coast just days before the election, the<br />

movement, reborn as Occupy Sandy,<br />

was at the forefront of the relief efforts.<br />

Without the cumbersome bureaucracy<br />

of organizations like the Red Cross and<br />

the Federal Emergency Management<br />

Agency (FEMA), Occupy Sandy was<br />

lighter on its feet and better able to get<br />

supplies to those in need. 13<br />

Perhaps the lesson of the Occupy<br />

movement, and the answer to the<br />

question of what is at stake in taking<br />

it to the streets, is that there is no<br />

one-size-fits-all answer to keeping<br />

the republic. Voting, indeed, is<br />

an essential part of the equation.<br />

Knowing how dependent he was on<br />

the votes of young people, President<br />

Obama was attentive to issues<br />

like student loans and Obamacare<br />

regulations that allowed those under<br />

twenty-six to stay on their parents’<br />

health insurance. And having seen, for<br />

two elections in a row, that the youth<br />

turnout can be decisive, Republicans<br />

will also likely try to be more youthfriendly<br />

in their policy positions.<br />

But Occupy highlights the value of<br />

grassroots action, and the power of<br />

stepping outside the system to put<br />

pressure on the status quo to respond<br />

to unmet and even previously unvoiced<br />

needs. It might not have been what<br />

Benjamin Franklin had in mind, but<br />

occupying the republic may very well<br />

be another means of keeping it. •<br />

To Sum Up<br />

Key terms, chapter summaries, practice quizzes, Internet links,<br />

and other study aids are available on the companion web site at<br />

http://republic.cqpress.com.<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

advanced industrial democracy (p. 11)<br />

anarchy (p. 9)<br />

authoritarian capitalism (p. 9)<br />

authoritarian governments (p. 9)<br />

authority (p. 5)<br />

capitalist economy (p. 7)<br />

citizens (p. 11)<br />

communist democracy (p. 11)<br />

democracy (p. 9)<br />

divine right of kings (p. 15)<br />

economics (p. 6)<br />

elite democracy (p. 10)<br />

government (p. 5)<br />

institutions (p. 6)<br />

laissez-faire capitalism (p. 7)<br />

legitimate (p. 4)<br />

participatory democracy (p. 11)<br />

pluralist democracy (p. 11)<br />

politics (p. 4)<br />

popular sovereignty (p. 10)<br />

power (p. 4)<br />

procedural guarantees (p. 7)<br />

regulated capitalism (p. 7)<br />

republic (p. 17)<br />

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any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


ules (p. 5)<br />

social contract (p. 15)<br />

social democracy (p. 8)<br />

social order (p. 4)<br />

socialist economy (p. 7)<br />

subjects (p. 11)<br />

substantive guarantees (p. 8)<br />

totalitarian (p. 9)<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

••<br />

Politics may appear to be a grubby, greedy pursuit, filled<br />

with scandal and backroom dealing. In fact, despite its<br />

shortcomings and sometimes shabby reputation, politics is<br />

an essential means for resolving differences and determining<br />

how power and resources are distributed in society. Politics<br />

is about who gets power and resources in society—and how<br />

they get them.<br />

••<br />

Government, a product of the political process, is the system<br />

established for exercising authority over a group of people.<br />

In the United States the government is embodied in the<br />

Constitution and the institutions set up by the Constitution.<br />

The Constitution represents the compromises and deals made<br />

by the founders on a number of fundamental issues, including<br />

how best to divide governing power.<br />

••<br />

Politics establishes the rules and institutions that shape<br />

how power is distributed in political interactions. The<br />

most fundamental rules of our political system are those<br />

that define and empower our political institutions and the<br />

way these institutions interact with each other and with<br />

individual citizens.<br />

••<br />

Government is shaped not only by politics but also by<br />

economics, which is concerned specifically with the<br />

distribution of wealth and society’s resources. The United<br />

States has a regulated capitalist economy, which means<br />

that property is owned privately and decisions about<br />

the production of goods and the distribution of wealth<br />

are left to marketplace forces with some governmental<br />

control.<br />

••<br />

Political systems dictate how power is distributed among<br />

leaders and citizens, and these systems take many forms.<br />

Authoritarian systems give ultimate power to the state;<br />

nonauthoritarian systems, like democracy, place power<br />

largely in the hands of the people. Democracy is based on<br />

the principle of popular sovereignty, giving the people the<br />

ultimate power to govern. The meaning of citizenship is key<br />

to the definition of democracy, and citizens are believed to<br />

have rights protecting them from government as well as<br />

responsibilities to the public realm.<br />

••<br />

The meaning of American democracy can be traced to<br />

the time of the nation’s founding. During that period,<br />

two competing views of citizenship emerged. The first<br />

view, articulated by James Madison, sees the citizen as<br />

fundamentally self-interested; this view led the founders<br />

to fear too much citizen participation in government. The<br />

second view puts faith in citizens’ ability to act for the<br />

common good, to put their obligation to the public ahead<br />

of their own self-interest. Both views are still alive and<br />

well today, and we can see evidence of both sentiments at<br />

work in political life.<br />

••<br />

In this book we look at two ways of thinking critically about<br />

American politics: analyzing how our American political<br />

system works and evaluating how well it works. We rely<br />

on two underlying themes to pursue this course. The first<br />

is the assumption that all political events and situations<br />

can be examined by looking at who the actors are, what<br />

they have to win or lose, and how the rules shape the<br />

way these actors engage in their struggle. This analytic<br />

framework should provide us with a clear understanding<br />

of how power functions in our system. Examining who<br />

gets what they want and how they achieve it in political<br />

outcomes highlights the second theme of this text: how<br />

diverse citizens participate in political life to improve their<br />

own individual situations and to promote the interests of<br />

the community at large. We evaluate citizenship carefully<br />

as a means to determine how well the American system is<br />

working.<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

Dalton, Russell J. 2009. The Good Citizen: How a Younger<br />

Generation Is Reshaping American Politics, revised ed.<br />

Washington, DC: <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>. Dalton shows that trends in<br />

participation and policy priorities reflect a younger generation that<br />

is more engaged, more tolerant, and more supportive of social<br />

justice, leading to new norms of citizenship.<br />

To Sum Up 25<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

Hobbes, Thomas. 1996. Leviathan. Edited by Richard Tuck.<br />

New York: Cambridge University <strong>Press</strong>. Writing in 1651, English<br />

philosopher Thomas Hobbes described a state of nature in which life<br />

is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” His analysis of society<br />

and power explains why citizens agree to be ruled by a powerful<br />

state: to preserve peace and security.<br />

Lasswell, Harold. 1936. Politics: Who Gets What, When, and<br />

How. New York: McGraw-Hill. Lasswell’s classic work on<br />

politics, originally published in 1911, lays out the definition of<br />

politics that is used throughout this textbook.<br />

Locke, John. 1952. Second Treatise on Government. With<br />

Introduction by Thomas P. Peardon. Indianapolis, IN:<br />

Bobbs-Merrill. Here you’ll find Locke’s influential ideas about<br />

natural rights, consent, the social contract, and the legitimacy<br />

of revolting against a government that breaks the<br />

contract.<br />

Tocqueville, Alexis de. 1945. Democracy in America. Edited<br />

by Phillips Bradley. New York: Vintage Books. An intricate<br />

and extremely interesting report on American politics and culture<br />

as described by a visiting Frenchman during the nineteenth<br />

century.<br />

Van Belle, Douglas A., and Kenneth M. Mash. 2013. A Novel<br />

Approach to Politics: Introducing Political Science Through<br />

Books, Movies, and Popular Culture, 3rd ed. Washington,<br />

DC: <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>. Drawing on examples from popular culture and the<br />

media, the authors explain essential political theory in a way that<br />

will entertain and enlighten.<br />

Wheelan, Charles. 2010. Naked Economics: Undressing<br />

the Dismal Science. New York: Norton. Stripping the subject<br />

of complex jargon, equations, and diagrams, Wheelan offers<br />

clear and simple explanations of the economic principles that<br />

shape public policy.<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

American Political Science Association www.apsanet.org<br />

The leading professional organization for political scientists offers<br />

information on political science, careers in the field, and its many<br />

publications.<br />

USA.gov This official information portal for the U.S. federal<br />

government provides easy access to all online government resources.<br />

Internet Public Library www.ipl.org Hosted by the University<br />

of Michigan, this is a gateway to countless sources. Go to the<br />

government and political science categories.<br />

Rock the Vote www.rockthevote.com For more than twenty<br />

years, this campaign has used music and popular culture to incite<br />

young people to “step up, claim their voice in the political process,<br />

and change the way politics is done.”<br />

SpeakOut.com This site, managed by an online opinion research<br />

company, provides a way for visitors to participate in online polls,<br />

send messages to public officials, and sign petitions on issues they<br />

care about.<br />

Define<br />

Understand<br />

Read<br />

Click<br />

Watch<br />

Erin Brockovich 2000. A woman down on her luck manages to<br />

find a job as a legal assistant and works toward the good of the<br />

community by exposing a power company that has been dumping<br />

toxic waste. This popular film exposes what’s at stake when an<br />

everyday citizen takes an interest and gets involved.<br />

The Hunger Games 2012. Set in a future North America, this<br />

dystopian film (and trilogy of novels) imagines a country in which a<br />

brutal and decadent capitol rules over twelve impoverished districts,<br />

and offers a frightening exploration of the ways in which power can<br />

be distributed, abused, and perhaps even challenged.<br />

Lord of the Flies 1963. A group of schoolboys are shipwrecked on<br />

an uninhabited island and turn into savages for their own survival.<br />

While the movie (based on William Golding’s 1954 novel) is chilling,<br />

it provides an excellent illustration of what life would be like without<br />

a ruling government.<br />

Nineteen Eighty-Four 1984. This adaptation of George Orwell’s<br />

classic novel depicts a totalitarian society in which the government<br />

controls all aspects of life.<br />

26 1: Politics: Who Gets What, and How<br />

Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher


Copyright © 2014 by <strong>CQ</strong> <strong>Press</strong>, a division of SAGE. No part of these pages may be quoted, reproduced, or transmitted in<br />

any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher

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