Union University

Union University Department of Political Science

Department of Political Science



Sean Evans, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science

The Marriage Revolution

May 2, 2015 - In 1988, 11% of Americans supported same sex marriage. Today, approximately 60% support it and the Supreme Court is on the verge of declaring it a constitutional right. How could a definition of marriage that has lasted for millennia change in such a short time period? It begins with a belief that humans are rational beings who are the best judge for what is good for oneself. If true, then the only reason to limit one’s freedom is to prevent harm to another person...read more

Who's Going to Run in 2016

Feb 21, 2015 - With over 20 Republicans expressing an interest in the White House and no clear frontrunner, who has the best chance to win the presidential nomination in 2016? Currently, candidates are running in the invisible primary to impress the political elites in two ways. First, candidates try to secure a base in one of the wings of the party while demonstrating acceptability to the rest of the party...read more

Establishment Backs Gist Over Finney

Feb 5, 2015 - If there was any doubt that the establishment in Jackson would be conflicted over whether to support Mayor Jerry Gist or former State Senator Lowe Finney, the recent fundraising reports ended that speculation. Despite supporting both candidates over the past eight years, the Jackson establishment is firmly in Mayor Gist’s corner. The question for the campaign is whether financial support of the Jackson establishment is enough for Gist to win. To begin, both candid...read more

Representing Constituents v Governing the State in the Case of Insure Tennessee

Jan 29, 2015 - In 1774 upon his election to Parliament, Edmund Burke provided the classic description of the tension between representing one’s constituents and governing the nation. He said a representative should “live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; t...read more

Gifts for Political Figures

Dec 26, 2014 - Yesterday, children all over West Tennessee woke up early and rushed to their Christmas tree to see what Santa Claus brought them. In that same spirit, I would like to play Santa and give Christmas presents to various political figures. First for the Tennessee Democratic Party, a credible statewide candidate. In the past two election cycles, the Democratic Party has nominated candidates simply because they were the first name listed the ballot and/or had the name ...read more

Process Is as Important as Substance

Nov 21, 2014 - In the Schoolhouse Rock video “I’m Just a Bill,” we all learned that the president proposes legislation, Congress can accept or reject the bills, and if Congress rejects the president’s proposals, the president can take unilateral action to implements his proposals. Wait, that’s not what the cartoon actually teaches. But if President Obama follows through on his promise to protect up to 5 million additional illegal immigrants f...read more

Democrats Lost; Republicans Didn't Win

Nov 7, 2014 - On Tuesday night, a partisan wave swept Democrats out of power all across the nation and at every level of government. However in analyzing the election, I think it is more accurate to say that the Democrats lost the election more than Republicans won the election. Realizing this fact would lead both parties to make the correct decisions regarding strategy over the next two years. First, the Democratic defeat was felt at the federal, state, and local level. The Republic...read more

Republicans Are Slight Favorites to Win Senate

Oct 17, 2014 - With the election over two weeks away, Republicans are slight favorites to win control of the Senate but the outcome is still uncertain. As election day approaches, here are some key indicators that will determine control of the Senate. First, what is Obama’s approval ratings in the states with competitive elections? Midterm elections are usually a referendum on the incumbent president and so the lower the president’s approval, the more difficult the campaign is for the ...read more

Mayoral Race Looks Interesting

Sep 12, 2014 - It is a rare event when a popular incumbent faces a difficult reelection race. However State Senator Lowe Finney’s recent announcement that he will challenge Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist is one such race. At the outset, Mayor Gist has several built-in advantages. First, Gist is at every local event, is a tireless booster for the city, and well-liked by all who meet him. Second, Gist knows the city and its needs after serving as parks and recreation director and public...read more

Red To Its Roots

Aug 8, 2014 - While most media coverage of yesterday’s elections is focusing on Lamar Alexander’s Senate seat, the more significant races are whether John Mehr is the new the Madison County Sheriff, Ann Strong is Crockett County Mayor, Kyle Atkins is a Circuit Court Judge, and Tennesseans retained the Supreme Court Justices. These races matter because they will tell us whether Tennessee will become a one party state. Last summer, the Tennessee Republican Party declared its intent to make Tennessee “red to its roots&rdq...read more

TN Supreme Court More Liberal Than State

Jul 28, 2014 - One of the main arguments of those wanting Tennesseans to reject the three Supreme Court Justices up for retention votes is that the Tennessee Supreme Court (TNSC) is too liberal for Tennessee. While the arguments they use in their ads do not support this argument, there is strong evidence that that the TNSC is more liberal than the state as a whole. For those who believe in checks and balances, retaining the justices up for retention may be a good ideas as it may moderate our more conservative legislature. However those who believe in accountability may see ...read more

Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me

Jul 24, 2014 - In the show Hee Haw, one of the weekly skits had two people talking about something that was not as they thought it was in a song called “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me.” After examining the arguments for and against retaining the three Justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court, I feel like singing “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me” because the arguments in favor of retention come from a commission with a credibility problem and the arguments for rejecting the Justices are just plain weak.  ...read more

Independent or Accountable Courts?

Jul 23, 2014 - In an otherwise dull set of statewide races, one of the more interesting races is the retention elections of Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Cornelia Clark, and Justice Sharon Lee. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and many other Republicans believe that the Supreme Court, like the governor and state legislature, should reflect Tennessee’s Republican nature. Since the three justices are Democrats, Ramsey wants to replace them with more conservative and Republican justices. The supporters of the justices decry this attempt as an attack on judicial independence and an affront to constitutional democracy.

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The Great Debate

Jul 8, 2014 - On our nation’s 238th birthday, it is appropriate to look back at the arguments defending our independence because two different versions of liberalism, according to Yuval Levin in The Great Debate, continue to shape and guide our political debate. On one side, progressive liberalism is rooted in the natural rights ideas of Thomas Paine, most famous for his pamphlet Common Sense defending the American Revolution. For Paine, politics is dri...read more

Establishment is Beating Tea Party in Tennessee

Jun 2, 2014 - Despite talk of a civil war between establishment and Tea Party Republicans in Tennessee, the war is already over and the establishment has won because the establishment is already as conservative as most Tea Party Republicans. The fight now is to remove the conservatives who embarrass the party or are not team players. While many claim that the Tea Party has moved the GOP to the right, the simple fact is that the GOP move to the right predates the Tea Party...read more

Outsiders Influence Tennessee Politics

Apr 25, 2014 - For the past decade, a common refrain among conservatives is that the people elect conservatives but never get small government. Now there seems to be an organized effort by conservative, primarily libertarian, institutions to reverse this fact and remake the Tennessee GOP in their image. For the past two years, the Koch Brother’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, and Michelle Rhee’s Students First and the American Federation for Children, pro-school choice organization...read more

GOP Sees Renewed Prospects

Mar 21, 2014 - Last week, Democrats felt the political world shake underneath them as Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. This election signals that the political environment clearly favors Republicans and makes them a slight favorite to take control of the Senate in November. The election deflated Democrats because Sink, a former statewide office holder, was a better candidate than Jolly, a former Congressional aide turned lobbyist. Moreover, Sink outspent Jolly 4 to 1, Democrats outspent Republicans by $1 million, Sink won the district in her 2010 gubernatorial race, and Obama won the district twice. With al...read more

Obama's Unilateral Actions Go Too Far

Feb 17, 2014 - In his State of the Union, President Obama said that if Congress did not act, he would use his pen and phone and act. Last Monday, the Obama Administration acted by delaying the health care mandate on employers. Obama’s unilateral action follows a rich tradition of presidents pushing the constitutional boundaries to expand their power.read more

GOP Must Offer Positive Vision

Jan 13, 2014 - President Obama had a horrible 2013 as his legislative agenda stalled, scandal (via the IRS and NSA) rocked his administration, and the rollout of Obamacare was a disaster. Yet, the Republican Party has not benefitted. Gallup finds public approval of the GOP at 32 percent which is 10 percent lower than Democrats. One of the primary reasons the GOP has not gained from Obama’s woes is that it spent most of the past year on what it opposes (gun control, immigration reform, food stamps, expanding Medicaid, Obamacare, etc.) rather than what it supports. Consequently, the public perceives Republicans as out of touch, which results in the public trusting Democrats by 28 percent o...read more

Young Are Needed for Health Care Reform Success

Nov 22, 2013 - The rollout of Obamacare has been a disaster. Today, Republicans think Obamacare will guarantee them election victories while Democrats hope the worst is behind them and support for Obamacare will gradually increase. Which party is correct will depend on the answer to these questions over the next year. <...read more

The GOP Must Face Facts

Oct 18, 2013 - In Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick, Captain Ahab relentlessly pursues a white whale to extract revenge for previously destroying his ship. His obsession becomes so great that he irrationally pursues the whale to the point of destroying his ship and killing his crew. Like Ahab, the tea party is so obsessed with the president, Obamacare, the Republican establishment and compromise that it has lost its focus and is sinking the Republican ship. The conservative movement’s primary focus should be on winning, not on any person, law or tactic. If it cannot win elections, it cannot achieve its goal of smaller, limited government. This past month is emblematic of...read more

American Credibilty Suffers

Sep 13, 2013 - On Tuesday, President Obama said the use of chemical weapons against children demanded an American strike to deter future use of these barbaric weapons and asked: “What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?” Unfortunately by choosing to delay striking Syria, he has chosen a world where American credibility and international norms are in tatters. Deterrence is based on the idea that certain actions will be met with a swift and appropriate response that makes engaging in those actions too costly. The fact that th...read more

Finney's Future

Aug 12, 2013 - Thirty years ago, State Senator Lowe Finney would have been an obvious candidate for Congress or governor. Today, his political career is endangered by changes in Tennessee politics and within the Democratic Party. The most obvious obstacle for Finney’s advancement is Tennessee’s move to a reliable Republican state.read more

Obama's Scandals

Jun 17, 2013 - In the debate over the Benghazi, IRS, and the Justice Department scandals, there are accusations of corruption, stupidity, and incompetence. In reality, the scandals are a combination of all three. With Benghazi, there were four foolish acts. First, the Administration failed to quickly collect and analyze the relevant information regarding the attack to produce an accurate report. Second, the Benghazi emails and accompanying rep...read more

States Should Reform Health Care

Apr 9, 2013 - Last week, Governor Bill Haslam decided to delay expanding Medicaid because the Obama Administration rejected his request for flexibility. Under Haslam’s Tennessee Plan, the state would provide subsidies to poor Tennesseans to purchase health insurance while requiring co-pays for those who can afford it, tying medical payments to outcomes, and providing an opt-out if federal payments decrease. &nbs...read more

Can We All Get Along?

Mar 1, 2013 - As we face another budgetary crisis through ideological conflict, many Americans ask, a la Rodney King, “Why can’t we all get along?” The simple answer is that we argue because we have differing assumptions about the world, and ask questions that lack overlapping answers. The typical liberal believes that humans are naturally good but have been corrupted by their environment. Since we have seen society progress over time, they believe that government can step in and fix broken institutions to continue humanity’s development. However, they do not believe tha...read more

Obama's Tactics May Fail

Jan 25, 2013 - In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama said that “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton did not.” In his second inaugural address, President Obama makes his claim to be the “liberal Reagan.” With the public still blaming Republicans for our economic troubles and gridlock in Washington, the GOP brand is tox...read more

Obama's Grand Ambitions

Jan 21, 2013 - Today, the nation witnessed the second inauguration of Barack Obama.While the inauguration four years ago was historic, looking back we may see his second inauguration historic for another reason.In his inaugural address today, President Obama made clear his ambition to usher in the next great phase of liberalism. Five years ago, then Senator Obama said that he wished to be a transformational president like Ronald Reagan.To be that transformational figure, he needs to repudiate the existing regime and create a suitable replacement according to Stephen Skowronek’s theory in his book President Leadership and Political Time<...read more

Democrats Need to Change

Dec 14, 2012 - Tennessee Democrats are in the position as national Republicans. They are a minority and must change to be competitive. The decline of Southern Democrats is the result of civil rights, national security, social issues and economics leading conservatives into the Republican Party and liberals into the Democratic Party. Today, this ideological sorting means that Southern Democrats are moderate liberals, which makes it extremely difficult to distinguish themselves from the national party. As a result, moderate and conservative Southern voters have deserted Democrats.

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Lessons for the GOP

Nov 13, 2012 - After losingan election they think they should have won, Republicans are discussing what this election's results mean for them. Many blamethe candidate and it is true that Mitt Romney made some major mistakes. He never defined himself,failed to differentiate himself from George W. Bush, provided no real vision for the nation, and ruined any chance of getting Latino support with his position on illegal immigration.

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Romney Gets Debate Reprieve

Oct 5, 2012 - After Wednesday night’s debate, Republicans are jubilant and Democrats are disappointed. However, one debate does not change the course of the election and Romney must build upon his victory to have a chance to win. Republicans desperately needed a strong performance from Romney. In spite of high, persistent unemployment, large deficits, and an unpopular health care law, Obama has led Romney in the polls all year. Moreover, the Democrats barrage of campaign ads attacking Romney as an aloof, heartless businessman turned Romney’s business success into a negative. These attacks, and the failure to respond, als...read more

What the Conventions Told Us

Sep 8, 2012 - Just as one's character gives insight into the kind of person one is, the political conventions provide insight into our politics. The conventions over the past two weeks tells us three things: these were tofu conventions, character is king, and this is a base election. First, we witnessed the first tofu conventions as the past two weeks were devoid of policy. Watching the two conventions, I was reminded of the old Wendy's commercial when the old lady orders a hamburger, is given a huge bun with a small hamburger and asks "where's the beef?" Well, policy is the "beef" of American politics. It is what we chew over and digest before we decide ho...read more

Reflections on the Democratic Convention

Sep 8, 2012 - Going into this convention, Democrats had several goals. First, they needed to have a good answer for the "are you better off now than you were four years ago" question. To their credit, they did the best they could. In answering this question, they took two approaches. First, VP Joe Biden provided the bumper sticker answer of "Osama bin Laden is dead and GMis alive." This response is the unequivocal "yes, you are better off" by emphasizing a foreign policy and domestic policy success and symbolically (or literally in Joe Biden speak) communicating competence in the traditional "peace and prosperity" theme of most elections. Biden's form...read more

Was the Convention Enough for Romney?

Aug 31, 2012 - Did the Republican Convention do what Mitt Romney needed it to do? Republicans went into the convention with three goals. They succeeded with two. Whether that is enough, time will tell. First, they needed to prove that President Obama needed to be fired. This was the easy task of the convention and the GOP was successful. The GOP even did a good job of making it easy for voters to fire ("not a bad man, just a bad president"). Second, the convention wanted to humanize Mitt Romney after the deluge of personal attacks the Obama campaign and Democratic groups have run. This they had good success with this week. Ann Romney, the film before the 9pm hour la...read more

Party Convention Could Be a Pivot Point

Aug 31, 2012 - While party conventions are no longer consequential to selecting nominees, conventions still play an important role in the campaign. As we transition from the Republican to the Democratic convention, here are some metrics to judge the success of both conventions. First, will voters consider Mitt Romney an acceptable alternative? After three-and-a-half years, most people are dissatisfied with President Obama’s leadership but unconvinced Romney is the answer. This uneasiness is a combination of Democratic ads demonizing Romney and Romney not trying to define himself. The good news for Romney...read more

Mixed Messages: Reflections on Day 1 of the GOP Convention

Aug 29, 2012 - Day 1 of the GOP Convention sent a mixed message and that is not good for Republicans. The goals of the convention are (1) define Mitt Romney as a likable, caring, empathetic figure who understands the plight of everyday people; (2) prove Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can fix the economy; (3) demonstrate Romney-Ryan is a better alternative than Obama-Biden. Day 1 failed that test as Republican messaging was all over the place which is problematic in that the convention is competing with Hurricane Isaac. With the media covering two big events, there will be less time to talk about the convention. The saving grace of the GOP is that the media will focus primarily on Ann Romney...read more

Romney's VP Choices

Aug 2, 2012 - Who will Mitt Romney choose as his vice presidential running mate?While few voters cast ballots based on the VP nominee, many view the VP choice as a window into the character and vision of a potential presidency. Consequently when Barack Obama chose a more experienced running mate with extensive foreign policy experience, many saw a nominee confident enough in himself to choose someone who would complement his weaknesses and help him govern. Conversely, John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin, while reinforcing his reform credentials and separating him from George Bush, eventually wa...read more

Candidate Trumps Money

Jul 10, 2012 - After Republican Governor Scott Walker won the Wisconsin recall, many liberals blamed the loss on the Republican financial advantage. In fact, many people look at the large, undisclosed donations to the Super PACs and understandably fear that money is corrupting our democracy. And while it is true that a politician cannot win without enough money to run an effective campaign, candidate quality, message, and incumbent and presidential performance have a greater impact on outcomes. To see this, let’s look at some facts. First, candidates matter more than fundraising. Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination because he was the least flawed of a set of flawed candidates and not...read more

The Ron Paul Revolution

May 27, 2012 - Even though Ron Paul will no longer campaign for the Republican nomination, the Ron Paul Revolution continues because the “revolution” is not about winning the nomination. The revolution’s goal is nothing short of changing the Republican Party and then America. Once you understand this goal, the Ron Paul campaign makes sense. Ron Paul continued to campaign when it was clear he could not win because he sought to spread hi...read more

What is Judicial Activism?

Apr 16, 2012 - Last week, President Obama expressed his belief that his health care law is constitutional and said a Supreme Court decision to overturn the law would be “an unprecedented and extraordinary act” of judicial activism. Judicial activism is not simply striking down laws a legislature passes — because the courts, as a co-equal branch of government, share in lawmaking, regularly void laws as unconstitutional and give laws new meaning through their interpretation. The problem, as Justice Felix Frabkfurter, a proponent of judicial restraint, once wrote is "not whether judges make law, but when and how and how much." These questions raise concerns about the dem...read more

Election is far From Over

Mar 10, 2012 - Is the presidential election over? This is probably the most common question that people ask me these days. Based on a lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney, an economy starting to improve and rising poll numbers for President Obama, conservative pundits and Republicans fear that the president is destined for reelection. But as ESPN College Gameday's Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast!" Obama is a vulnerable incumbent, and the Republican approval numbers are artificially low because of the primary. Barring the Republicans nominating Gingrich, Santorum or Paul, the November election will go down to the wire. Let's begin with Obama's record. On the positive side, Osama...read more

Newt Lacks Character to be President

Feb 4, 2012 - In speaking about the presidency in 1964, Richard Nixon said, "With all the power the president has, the most important thing to bear in mind is this: You must not give power to a man, unless above everything, he has character." Unfortunately, Nixon did not learn his own lesson, but we can. As Republicans choose a nominee, I hope they realize Newt Gingrich lacks the character to be president. For many Republicans, Gingrich is a smart, visionary, articulate conservative ready to battle President Obama and liberalism to restore conservative values in America. Believing in redemption, they forgive his unfaithfulness to his first two wives because he has repented. Bu...read more

Medicare Reform Gains Support

Jan 3, 2012 - Compromise is a dirty word in Washington, D.C. these days. In fact, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refuses to even say the word. Yet, compromise is integral to our constitutional system. The Founders created a system whereby members of the House, Senate, and Presidency would represent different constituencies and serve different terms to insure they would have different interests. For any bill to pass, a majority of districts and states and the nation would have to compromise to pass a law. The key to compromise though is selling the deal. As satirist Ambrose Bie...read more

Admitting the Problem is the First Step Toward Solving It

Nov 18, 2011 - In his 1948 presidential campaign, Harry "Give 'em Hell" Truman attacked Republican policies saying, "I never give anybody hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell." Today, we have the exact opposite. Our politicians do not tell us the truth because the budgetary truth is too hellacious. Instead, we see politicians make demagogic and dishonest statements that contribute to our budgetary paralysis. Democrats contribute to the charade by claiming that we can solve our budgetary problems by taxing the rich. Looking at President Obama's proposal to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years, half comes from ending tax deductions and the Bus...read more

Perry's Race to Win

Oct 14, 2011 - To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “the GOP nomination ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Even after several poor debate performances, controversy over his hunting camp, and falling poll numbers, Texas Governor Rick Perry is the favorite for the nomination. First, the race is likely to come down between a conservative and Mitt Romney, and Perry is the only credible, conservative nominee who can put together a run at the nomination. Herman Cain’s inexperience will make it hard to withstand media scrutiny and to take advantage of his recent suc...read more

Our Memorial to 9/11

Sep 12, 2011 - Two days from now, America remembers the tragedy that is 9/11. The next few days, we will remember the dead, praise the heroes that rushed into those two towers and tried to retake Flight #93, thank the police, military, and assorted security services that have prevented another attack on our homeland, acknowledge the justice that Osama received, and remember the price for the freedom that we, so often, take for granted. Yet as I remember the decade since 9/11, I think the tragedy is not just that horrible day but how we have reacted since. Most disappointingly, 9/...read more

The Silver Lining in the Debt Deal

Aug 5, 2011 - Most people watched the debt limit debate with disgust and deservedly so. But instead of reinforcing your well-honed cynicism, let’s note some of the more positive aspects of the fight. First, the fight was over principle. Democrats believe that government is the only institution that can promote justice for all, whether by regulating greedy corporations and individuals or taking care of the disadvantaged. Republicans believe the market and individuals will make better decisions than government and the foundation of the republic is free, independent citi...read more

Will the 21st Century be the Chinese Century?

Jul 1, 2011 - After recently spending two weeks in China, I believe predictions of a coming Chinese century are exaggerated. China will be a world power but not a superpower. China has tremendous potential. First, there is a unified national sense of purpose about making China a great nation. Second, China's authoritarian government can make strategic decisions and implement them easily. Third, many Chinese have an entrepreneurial spirit. Finally and most important, the Chinese have an amazing sense of duty that focuses their attention and leads them to work hard. In spite of these advantages, several obstacles lie in China's path to superpower status. First, the Chinese culture does no...read more

The Health Care Choice

Apr 22, 2011 - Do you trust health care providers or yourself to reduce health care costs? This choice is the primary distinction between the dueling proposals of House Republicans and President Obama to reform Medicare. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) proposes Medicare reforms that emphasize individuals controlling costs through a market-driven system. Ryan would not touch Medicare for those 55 and older. But beginning in 2022, all seniors eligible for Medicare will receive a voucher, progressively price-based on health and income, to purchase health insurance. Individuals will then search for the health insurance policy that best fits their needs as insurance companies offer c...read more

GOP's 2012 Dilemma

Mar 18, 2011 - Do Republicans want to nominate a populist who embodies their values or a manager who solves our problems? According to the National Journal's Ron Brownstein, the Republican presidential field is divided by this distinction. The eventual nominee must bridge these two camps to have a chance of winning in 2012. When comparing the two groups, there is little difference on policy. Both are conservative. The major difference is style and who they represent. Brownstein argues that Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee represent the populists. Their appeal is less their agenda and more their identity. Both Palin and Huckabee rail against the establishment and stress their values and iden...read more

Court Health Care Decision Can Wait

Feb 11, 2011 - Mr. Dooley, a turn of the 20th century cartoon character, was famous for saying "No matter whether the country follows the flag or not, the Supreme Court follows the election returns." With two judges recently declaring Obamacare unconstitutional in part or in whole, we need to remember that the Supreme Court is a political and legal institution. Regardless of its legal beliefs, the court is political because it is the "least dangerous branch." Since it cannot enforce its will, the court relies on the executive or legislative branch to enforce its decisions. This fact means that the court is unlikely to hear the case until 2013, and its decision will take into ...read more

2011 New Years Political Resolutions

Jan 8, 2011 - As we begin a new year, we traditionally take stock of the past year and make New Year's resolutions to improve ourselves. Here are some societal resolutions I hope we make. First, conservatives should resolve not just to reduce government but to make government work better. The large deficits, national debt and our unfunded liabilities in entitlement programs ensure that we must scale back entitlement programs, reduce spending and raise taxes sometime soon to balance our budget. Conservatives, especially tea partiers, in their haste to reduce the size of government, ignore the critical role that government plays in our lives. Our economy is sluggish, schools are failing, ...read more

Is the Future Bleak for Tennessee Democrats?

Nov 25, 2010 - President Obama was not the only one who faced a shellacking on Nov. 2. Tennessee Democrats suffered devastating defeats as the Republicans easily won the governor's mansion and gained three congressional seats, 14 state House seats, and one state Senate seat. For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans run state government lock, stock and barrel. The primary reason that Tennessee Democrats lost was their inability to distinguish themselves from the national party. Southern Democrats are no longer conservatives but moderate liberals. This transformation began in the 1960s as civil rights, national security and social issues led conservatives to join the Republican Party a...read more

The Campaign Race to the Finish

Oct 15, 2010 - With eighteen days left until the elections, what can we expect to see as the campaigns race to the finish line? First, the Republicans will nationalize the elections. Whether a Republican runs for governor, congress, state legislature, or dog catcher, s/he will run against Obama-Pelosi instead of their actual opponent.Since there is so much anger over the economy, TARP, the stimulus, and health care, Republicans will attempt to channel that anger into opposition to Democrats at all levels.

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The Unpopular Democrats

Sep 10, 2010 - The very first class I taught, my students did poorly on the first test and I did not handle the situation with the tact it deserved. Over the remaining semester, I spent countless hours and innumerable meetings with each student and saw tremendous improvement as the typical student improved two letter grades. I thought that I did a good job teaching. Then I received my student evaluations. I received "D's" across the board, even on items like "accessible to students" when my efforts showed otherwise. That's when I learned a very important lesson: student evaluations do not measure teaching effectiveness but whether they like you. President Obama is lea...read more

The Primary Effects of Nov. 5

Aug 9, 2010 - The primary has ended and the general election campaigning has begun. What do yesterday's results tell us about November and beyond? Here are some things to consider. First, how will the competitive Republican primary for the 8th Congressional District affect the general election? Democrat Roy Herron sits atop a $1.2 million war chest while the Republicans' coffers are empty. However, the national parties are targeting the race so the GOP nominee will raise money easily, and outside groups are already promising to run ads against Herron. The bigger problem for Herron is that the Republicans have used the summer to set the campaign agenda on size of government and Obama/Pel...read more

The President's Kryptonite

Jun 25, 2010 - The president is not Superman. He cannot fly rapidly around the Earth and repair holes created by earthquakes or offshore drilling. Yet, we expect the president to solve all of our problems with the snap of his fingers. That is why all presidents' kryptonite is unrealistic expectation. The oil spill is a perfect example of a president's no-win situation. President Obama can't promise to plug the leak because the government lacks the expertise and machinery to do so, and to promise something he can't deliver makes him look ineffective. Symbolically, the president needs to reassure those harmed by the spill, but to promise to save their jobs and prevent environmental damage — when he knows he...read more

Logic of Oil Drilling

May 22, 2010 - In 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant had a partial core meltdown that resulted in a radiation leak. The leak combined with the movie The China Syndrome about an almost catastrophic nuclear accident hindered the nuclear power industry for almost thirty years as it took 28 years to approve construction of a new nuclear power plant. Today, many believe that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the oil industry’s ...read more

Jump Ball in 8th CD

Apr 16, 2010 - At the beginning of each basketball game, there is a jump ball. At this point, both teams are tied and have a chance of winning if each team executes their game plan. In the race for the Republican nomination for the 8th Congressional District, we are now in a jump ball situation. So forget about straw poll victories and concerns expressed by tea parties because the primary electorate is much larger and forget about polls because ...read more

Tea Parties at Crossroads

Mar 16, 2010 - On February 19, 2009, Rick Santelli’s tirade against the stimulus and bailouts of irresponsible individuals and corporations sparked the tea party movement. And like the original Boston Tea Party, its goal is to start a revolution. This time though, the focus is our own government. In the ensuing months, the tea party movement organized rallies across the country, scared congressmen into opposing health care, and became more popular th...read more

The Future is the "Biggest Loser"

Feb 8, 2010 - If you want to lose weight, there is a program for you. You can exercise, follow the Atkins, Zone, or South Beach diet, take appetite suppressant drugs, have your stomach stapled, join a weight loss program like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. Or you can be like the contestants on The Biggest Loser andhire a personal trainer to help lose the weight. Yet with all of these options, people still have trouble losing weight and keeping it off. A primary reason these programs fail is that people lack or cannot maintain the commitment to change their lifestyle to lose weight.

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Eat Your Vegetables

Jan 4, 2010 - My mom had a simple rule at the table: no dessert unless you ate your vegetables. So I would hold my nose, stuff them in my mouth, and chase the vegetables down with milk so I could get the good stuff – dessert. Mom knew that while I may not like them, vegetables helped me grow up healthy. And desserts, while tasty, were bad for me in large quantities. So she needed, and found, the right balance. But that balance is exactly what we are...read more

The Unfulfilled Promises of Health Care Reform

Nov 27, 2009 - Health care reform promises universal coverage, lower costs, and higer quality. The proposed U.S. House and Senate plans fulfill none of these promises. The House plan leaves 18 million uninsured and the Senate plan 23 million uninsured. The Medicare Expenditure Panel survey finds that the average cost of private sector health insurance in 2008 was $4,386 for singles and $12,298 for families. Even though the House and Senate plans require individuals to buy health insurance, the penalty for not doing so in the House bill (2.5 percent of income over $9,350) would be $1,066 for the median household, which made $52,029 in 2008. The Senate penalty would be $750 for a single an...read more

The Czar Has No Clothes

Oct 24, 2009 - In Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, an Emperor obsessed with clothes hires some swindlers to make him the most beautiful clothes in the world. In making the nonexistent clothes, the swindlers claim that the cloth is invisible to the unfit and stupid. Not wanting to be seen as such, the Emperor and his ministers pretend that the clothes are beautiful. Finally as the emperor parades in public in his new clothes, it takes a small boy in the crowd to state the obvious truth that “the Emperor has no clothes!” &nb...read more

We Can Cut Health Care Costs

Sep 18, 2009 - Health care costs are out of control. Yet, we can reduce costs and improve health care if we take personal responsibility for our health and make the health insurance system more responsive. First, high health care costs are our fault. The Health Project Consortium (HPC) reports that 70% of all health costs result from changeable personal behaviors like overeating, smoking, alcohol abuse, not wearing a seat belt, sexual promiscuity, a sedentary lifestyle, overexp...read more

Health Care Reform Will Pass

Aug 14, 2009 - Presidential approval has fallen to the low to mid 50s. 49% of the public oppose the Democrat’s health care proposal. Constituents express anger at congressional town hall meetings on health care. Congress fails to meet Obama’s August deadline of passing health care. Many see these signs and conclude that health care reform is Obama’s political “Waterloo.” Yet, po...read more

Haslam and GOP Win Early Money Race for 2010 Gov Race

Jul 17, 2009 - With the fundraising totals being filed for Tennessee's 2010 gubernatorial race, two things are clear: the GOP has a leg up on the race and Bill Haslam is cementing himself as the man to beat. According to the Tennessean, Republicans outraised Democrats 3 to 1 or $6.8 million to 1.74 million. Just as important, three separate Republicans outraised the top 2 Democrats combined. While this does not guarantee a Republican governor, the fundraising totals reflect higher candidate quality and greater excitement. Most importantly, it shows a greater confidence ...read more

Character Matters

Jul 10, 2009 - The recent sordid events involving Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC), Senator John Ensign (R-NV), and former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) should prove one thing: character matters. And rightfully so. As Dartmouth College’s Linda Fowler suggests representative government poses two risks when we delegate our power to make decisions to others. First, officials may pursue their interest rather than their constituents or nation’s interest. Second, officials may make unacceptable tradeoffs requiring sacrifices (i.e., higher taxes, re...read more

60 Is Not Everything

Jul 2, 2009 - With the end of the Minnesota recount, Democratic Senator Al Franken gives Democrats the magical 60 seats needed to end Republican filibusters. Already, progressives are pushing Senate leaders to enact their agenda and Republicans are decrying the impending Armageddon. In reality though, Democrats gained responsibility for government and all its problems while our constitutional system will limit their exercising the power they wished for. N...read more

Conservative Reconciliation and Revival

Jun 8, 2009 - Just when Republicans thought that it could not get any worse, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switches parties, Rush Limbaugh publicly fights with Colin Powell, and a recent Pew Center poll shows Republican Party identification at 23%, close to its post-Watergate low. Yet, Republicans can rebound and win again. However, one requirement for Republican revival is for classical liberalism and traditional conservatism – two pillars of ...read more

Grading Obama's First 100 Days

May 4, 2009 - After 100 days, is President Barack Obama making the grade? Based on his performance so far, he earns an “A.” But a degree in presidential success takes at least four years and passing many more tests. To his credit, Obama has chosen intelligent, experienced, and skilled aides and has managed them and the government well. He also has controlled his media image, successfully communicated his message, and defined the Republicans as the “party of no.” These two things combined with large majorities in congress...read more

Handicapping the 2010 Governor's Race -- the Democrats

Mar 26, 2009 - Why aren't the Democrats in a more favorable position for the 2010 governor's race in Tennessee? The Democrats won the White House, have made large gains in congress the past two elections, Democratic party identification is up. All signs should be pointing upward for Tennessee Democrats. Yet, Republican Bob Corker won a US Senate seat in 2006 against Harold Ford, Jr who ran a great campaign in a toxic environment for Republicans, Lamar Alexander won a landslide reelection victory in 2008, Obama was not close in Tennessee,and Republicans took control over both Houses of the Tennessee GeneralAssembly in 2008. These results clearly show the growing Republican nature ofTennessee ...read more

Handicapping the 2010 Governor's Race -- the Republicans

Mar 24, 2009 - The Tennessee General Assembly is only a few months old and yet politicians are already declaring their interest in running for governor in two years. While this may beunfortunate because politics will enter into legislative decisions and Tennessee faces some challenging problems, (1) politics always enters legislative decisions and (2) candidates need to begin early to raise money, build a statewide organization, hire good people, develop policies, andraise name recognition in the state. With that in mind, let's handicap the Governor's race beginning with the party with the most likely winner -- the Republicans. What you say? I thought that the Republicans were becomi...read more

Obama's Grand Ambitions

Feb 25, 2009 - Last night, President Barack Obama laid out his ambitions in his address to Congress. And true to his word, he is pursuing change, and transformative change at that, as his ambition is no less than changing people's perception about government and its role in the economy and our lives. The problem is that his plans are too ambitious for congress to handle this year. Obama simply wants to restore a belief that government can help solve our problems overthrowing the reigning Republican paradigm that government is the problem and that if we get it out of the way then people will prosper. This is nothing short of transformational. The reigning anti-government paradigm of Reagan has go...read more

Partisanship Not a Bad Thing

Feb 23, 2009 - In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama ran as the post-partisan candidate who could bring Democrats and Republicans together to solve our national problems. And Obama has fulfilled part of that promise by retaining Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense and nominating former Congressman Ray Lahood (R-IL) as Secretary of Transportation and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) as Secretary of Commerce. Obama has also shown respect for Republicans by traveling to Capitol Hi...read more

Obama's Clean Break?

Jan 20, 2009 - In aninauguration replete with symbolism,Barack Obama made a clean break with the past as he became the 44th President of the United States. However as he moves forward, his actions will speak louder than his words and will prove whether he is worthy of the greatness he assigns himself as an heir of Lincoln. In a somber and serious inaugural address, Obama laid out the problems and tried to clearly make a break with the past to restore confidence to the American people and to restore world confidence in American leadership. In laying out the cause of our failure to address our problems, he blamed the partisan system of Washington politics ("we come to proclaim an ...read more

Tennessee State House Shenanigans

Jan 16, 2009 - This past week, the Tennessee General Assembly was rocked by the surprise election of Kent Williams (R - Elizabethton)as Speaker. Combining all 49 Democratic votes plus his vote, he won the Speaker election over the presumed Speaker-in-waiting Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol). Thus, even though Republicans won control over the TNGeneral Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction, they will not exercise control over it. The immediate aftermath was not surprising. People asked, "who is Kent Williams?" Why did he defect from the Republican nominee? What does this mean? I'll try to answer the best I can. First, who is Kent Williams? I really don't know an...read more

The Bush League Presidency

Jan 13, 2009 - What do Reggie Jackson, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco have in common? It's not their home runs. They rank in the top five for career strikeouts. They thought each time they went to the plate, they were going to hit a home run. And many times they were successful. Yet, for each home run they hit, they struck out, on average, four times. George W. Bush has that same slugger mentality. Every time he was faced with a policy decision, he swung for the fence. Sometimes he hit a home run, but many times he struck out, and those strikeouts will probably define his presidency. Contrary to what many say, Bush did hit home runs. First, No Child Left Behind identified failing sc...read more

Righting the Republican Ship

Dec 9, 2008 - Over the past two elections, a tsunami has washed Republicans from power. For the first time since the Great Depression, the GOP lost double digit seats in congress in two consecutive elections. Overall, Republicans lost the presidency, 12 Senate seats, 56 House seats, and 7 governorships while their parity in partisan identification in the 1990s has become a 7% Democratic advantage today. Many Republicans expect that Bush’s departure from politics combined with a re...read more

Obama's Machiavellian moves?

Nov 26, 2008 - In Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he lays down the principles that wise leaders should follow to stay in power and to achieve their goals. And I think that if we look at how Senate Democrats kept Joe Lieberman (I-CT) as Chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee while House Democrats replaced John Dingell (D-MI) with Henry Waxman (D-CA) as Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we see Barack Obama practicing the art of politics at a high level. &nb...read more

Voters Reject Bush and Republicans

Nov 7, 2008 - On Tuesday night, American voters punished President Bush and the Republicans by electing Barak Obama and sending the GOP to back to back double digit losses for the first time since the Great Depression. Clearly, the public was very angry at George W. Bush and the Republicans for their real and perceived incompetence (Iraq, Katrina, not preventing the financial crisis, etc.), corruption (e.g., Ted Stevens), and the abandonment of principle (more spending, higher deficits, etc.). And the public took its anger out on John McCain and Congressional Republicans. read more

The Sky Really Is Not Falling

Nov 3, 2008 - In every election, the campaigns trot out their Chicken Littles to cry, "The sky is falling!" And this election is no different. We have heard that "American style capitalism is dead," "worst economy since the Great Depression," the dangers of Obama-Pelosi-Reid, a filibuster-proof Senate Democratic majority, etc. All this is done for one purpose: to get you to vote. Campaigns exaggerate the differences between the candidates to win over and mobilize voters. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of these actions is that it raises people's anxiety over the election outcome. The fear is probably even greater this election because we have a black candidate leading the polls who has a f...read more

Ross Perot Strikes Back

Oct 29, 2008 - You remember Ross Perot don't you? The short, rich guy with the big ears who used charts to show the importance of the deficit and talked about it as the crazy aunt stuck in the basement. Well, he is not back but his ideas and supporters are and they help explain the gains that Democrats are making in the West this election. In 1992, Ross Perot surpised everyone by running ahead of both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton in the summer of 1992 and then getting 19% of the vote. This was especially surprising because he launched his campain on Larry King Live and volunteers around the nation worked hard to get him on the ballot and start the Reform Party. In a recent work by politi...read more

150 Million Reasons to Bet on the Democrats

Oct 20, 2008 - According to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post , Senator Barack Obama raised $150 million in the month of September. Holy Cow! To put this into perspective, Obama’s September fundraising haul dwarfs the previous record of $67 million (set by Obama in August), is almost 40% of the $375 million President George W. Bush raised in 2004, and is almost twice the $84 million Senator John McCain is allowed to spend by accepting federal matching funds. Overall, Obama has raised $619 million and he still has anot...read more

Obama Wins Debate Hat Trick

Oct 16, 2008 - In last night's debate, Senator Barack Obama looked calm, easily dismissed McCain's attacks, and appealed to centrist voters making him last night's winner and earning him the debate hat trick. Of course, it is easy to remain calm and reassuring, casually dismiss your opponent, and appeal to centrists when you are up in the polls, people view the economy as imploding and they blame the incumbent party, and the opponent has to go on the attack which independent voters claim they hate (even though research shows attacks ads are effective). As I mentioned in my last debate blog, debating while in the lead is easy because your goal is to make no mistakes. And Obama accomplished that. He a...read more

Round 3: Obama Calm, McCain Aggressive

Oct 8, 2008 - It is easier to debate when you are the frontrunner. When you have (or perceive yourself to have) a comfortable lead, you play defense, make your points, and avoid mistakes while the candidate who trails has to go on offense to make something happen to change the dynamics of the race. And going on offense provides the chance for a large reward (win the debate) but also a great risk (looking offensive). And that is a fine line when the stakes are the White House. Thus, in last night's debate, Obama played the calm, cool, collected frontrunner while McCain to be aggressive to make the big play. While poised, Obama made his political points. He connected Bush to McCain (deregulation, mor...read more

Palin Exceeds Expectations but Questions Remain

Oct 3, 2008 - In last night's debate, all eyes were on Governor Sarah Palin. After poor interviews with ABC's Charlie Gibson and CBS's Katie Couric and the Saturday Night Live spoofs, many began to question Palin's qualifications to be vice president and John McCain's judgment in choosing her. But after the debate, she proved to most people that she can serve as vice president ending the unqualified storyline but questions remain. Going into the debate, Palin had low expectations. Thus, it was a given that she would exceed them. All she needed to do was to speak intelligently, commit no gaffes, and prove that she is not the incompetent that she has been portrayed as. That is an easy task. And to her...read more

McCain Wins Debate on Points, Obama Wins Overall

Sep 27, 2008 - In last night's first presidential debate, Sen. John McCain performed slightly better than Sen. Barack Obama keeping Obamna on the defensive and on issues that McCain is most comfortable with. However, Obama showed poise and command of the subject proving he has what it takes to be president. Since the major concern about Obama is his inexperience (especially on foreign policy in a time of war), his performance did enough to make voters comfortable with him -- and for Obama that is a win. First, each candidate was successful in their goals for the night. McCain wanted to distance himself from Bush, demonstrate his bipartisan leadership, and make the point that Obama is inexperienced. ...read more

How to Grade the Debates

Sep 26, 2008 - Let’s get ready to rumble! In tonight’s “Main Event,” heavyweights John McCain and Barack Obama go mano a mano in the first of three presidential debates with Joe Biden and Sarah Palin providing the undercard match next Thursday. However, the difference between a boxing match and the presidential debates is that we, the American voter, have the opportunity to watch the fight and score it from home. So as you take out your scorer’s card, here are some things to consider. First, who provides the most logical, coherent answer, critique and/or rebuttal? Unfortunately, this is the least used and least relevant criteria because the debates are not an Oxford-style debate. The candidates an...read more

The Convention Bounce

Sep 10, 2008 - The media and many politicians see McCain's convention bounce and are now saying that the race is closer than previously imagined and that McCain may actually be the favorite. However, this analysis is based on a few polls. If we look at the history of bounces, we know that the law of gravity (what goes up must come down) will kick in sooner rather than later. First, let' s look at how polling works. According to Brody's Assessing the President, public opinion is a reaction of media coverage of elites. Since the public cannot spend the time to gather information on their own, they rely on the media to provide them the information they need to make decisions. However, the media...read more

What do John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Jimmy Buffet Have in Common?

Sep 5, 2008 - Watching John McCain’s acceptance speech last night, I was reminded of Jimmy Buffet’s song “Fins.” So with apologies to Buffet, let my paraphrase by describing the convention as “Palin to the right, McCain to the middle (and a little to the left), we’re the only change game in town” [Parrottheads know how to act while singing this]. Because in placing McCain’s speech in the narrative of the convention as a whole, it seems that McCain has chosen Palin to mobilize the right. And from all indications that has worked. One commentator last night said that polls show that Palin has cut the intensity gap between McCain and Obama in half. With conservatives safely behind him, McCain spent las...read more

Republican Convention Day #3

Sep 4, 2008 - Last night, the Republicans succeeded in their goal of undermining Obama's candidacy by attacking his qualifications while promoting Palin's qualifications. First, Gov. Sarah Palin delivered the speech of her life and wowed the delegates and the press pundits. She was poised, strong, and forceful in her delivery while effectively using humor to make her points. The comments about someone else helped write the speech is immaterial because speechwriters help every politician writes speeches. She helped and she delivered it well. This does not mean that she is out of the woods though. The media will continue to investigate her past, scrutinize her statements, and hold her to a high stan...read more

Republican Convention Day #2

Sep 3, 2008 - For the past 30 years, political scientists have talked about the age of candidate centered politics. Last night at the Republican convention exemplified this as the focus was on John McCain and his life story. The Republicans (the Democrats did it also) do this for two reasons. First, one of the two most important factors that influence the vote decision is whether a voter likes or dislikes a candidate (the other is policy agreement). This was especially important during a time of declining partisanship. Candidates could not rely on partisans alone to win so they emphasized their personal characteristics to appeal to voters. Second, McCain needs to distance himself from the Republica...read more

Republican Convention Day #1

Sep 2, 2008 - Yesterday, the Republicans had an abbreviated convention schedule due to Hurrican Katrina. So how did that affect the Republicans? Probably very little. First, the Republicans reinforced the convention/campaign message of "Country First" and that McCain puts principle over partisanship. And it is hard to claim that while you are bashing your opponents and a hurricane is pounding New Orleans. The Republicans look better by trying to raise money for the victims because it reinforces the "service to nation" theme. However, the Gustav coverage probably drowned out this news. Second, Gustav shows Republicans in a more positive, competent light. Most thin that Katrina was the public'...read more

Obama's Speech

Aug 29, 2008 - Last night, Obama did everything that he needed to do. He reinforced his credentials, took on McCain and the attacks against him, and tried to make himself the "change agent." And he did this making a strong, clear speech that should motivate his partisans. First, Obama built on the persona created by the convention as the embodiment of the middle class trying to restore the American Dream/Promise. As I have talked about the past few days, he hit on qualification, identification, and empathy so I will not discuss that much. He mentioned his legislative record for qualification but that was meager so he attacked McCain's judgment. Agreeing with Bush 90% of the time and showing where M...read more

Palin as VP

Aug 29, 2008 - Senator John McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the Republican Vice President nominee is a potential game changing pick -- both good and bad. First, her pick sends a message that the McCain-Palin ticket is the "change ticket" and that this is not George Bush's Republican Party. The biggest albatross around Republican's necks this November is George Bush and the Republian congresses of 2000-2006. McCain has the maverick image due to his opposition to many Bush and Republican policies and the Palin pick reinforces it because Palin is the reform governor of Alaska. She barely lost the Republican nomination in 2002 for Lieutenant Govenor running against the establishment and...read more

Democratic Convention Day #3

Aug 28, 2008 - Last night was the Democrats best night because they finally integrated the disprate themes into one coherent whole setting the stage for Obama's speech tonight. First though, we would be remiss if we did not note the historic nature of the nomination. In a country where African-Americans could not really vote 40 years ago, it says quite a bit about the Democratic Party and the country to nominate an African-American for the highest office in the land. The fact that the nomination was by acclimation is also significant because it is only the third in Democratic Convention history that has happened (FDR in 1936 and LBJ in 1964 were the others). Second, I also have to comment on ...read more

Democratic Convention Day #2

Aug 27, 2008 - Make no mistakes, last night was Hillary Clinton's night. As the Fix pointed out, there were 5 things that Hillary had to do and she did them. She acknowledged her supporters, use humor (least important in my book), connect the Clinton and Obama messages, go after McCain, and appear magnanimous. She did all of these. The most effective thing she did was make the political and policy connection between Obama and herself. This she did by mentioning her issues were Obama's issues, reminding her supporters that that were in the race not just for her but for the issues and Obama agrees with them, and the consequences of McCain victory (4 ...read more

Democratic Convention Day #1

Aug 26, 2008 - One of the main jobs of the Democratic Convention is to convince American voters that Obama is "one of us." It is not just the strange sounding name and his race that many think hurt Obama. It is the perceived elitism, unAmericanism, and inexperience that concerns voters. Tonight, Michelle Obama started addressing those concerns by effectively placing the Obama's in the American mainstream. One of the most effective narrative's in America is the American Dream where those with nothing are able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make something of themselves. The Obamas clearly fit in this Horatio Alger narrative. First, Obama comes from a broken home, is raised by his mo...read more

Conventions Still Important

Aug 25, 2008 - Even though a convention has not chosen a nominee since 1968, conventions remain important because they set the tone, strategy, and message of the general election. As we begin the convention season, here are some ways to judge the success of the conventions. First, does the vice president nominee offset the nominee’s weaknesses, contribute to the candidate’s message, and/or heal party wounds? For John McCain, a reform oriented conservative would help distance the party from President Bush while someone with domestic policy credentials would balance McCain’s foreign policy expertise. For Barack Obama, a foreign policy expert or a candidate who embodies change is best. Second, ...read more

The Biden Pick

Aug 23, 2008 - This afternoon, Barack Obama introduced Senator Joe Biden as his vice president running mate for the 2008 election. Is Senator Biden a good choice? While all of the potential VP candidates had strengths and weaknesses, I think Biden was a good choice. First, Obama kills two birds with one stone by addressing one of his biggest weaknesses: foreign policy expertise and experience. Biden has served as chair or ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 1995 and is well-respected for his knowledge and willingness to work in a bipartisan manner on the committee. With the recent events in Georgia, we have been reminded that the world outside the Middle East remains a d...read more

Campaigns Can Predict Governing

Jul 18, 2008 - How will Barack Obama or John McCain govern if elected president in November? Perhaps the best measure is how they run their campaigns. Due to the need to create a strategy, develop policies, communicate your views, manage a large organization, build coalitions, mobilize supporters, and react to crises, campaigning is very similar to governing. And the campaigns so far indicate strengths and weaknesses for both candidates. First, Obama’s campaign reflects his community organizing roots as he has successfully connected a larger purpose of change to creating community and the nuts and bolts of organizing. On a strategic level, Obama saw a dissatisfied and disenchanted public and wisely...read more

The VP Choice

Jun 24, 2008 - Now that Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic nomination, the media is beginning to focus on Obama and John McCain’s choice of running mates. This decision is the candidate’s first “presidential” decision and says much about the character, vision, and focus of their potential presidency. That is why presidential candidates today use their vice president choice to send a message, prepare for governing, and/or change the future direction of the party. From a historical perspective, the two most common reasons for choosing a vice presidential nominee are geographical and ideological balance. These two factors were important when party organizations were essential to mobilizing vot...read more

The Bush Electoral Legacy

May 16, 2008 - George Bush came into office with the hope of making the Republican Party the party of government for a generation. However, Bush will leave office with the Republican Party in its worst shape since Watergate and possibly since the Great Depression. In the short term, Bush has damaged the public’s perception of the Republican Party. Whether it is due to incompetence in Iraq, a struggling economy, increased government spending, the inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, high oil prices, and/or potential violations of civil liberties in the war on terror, the public has soured on George Bush. In fact, a recent New York Times/CBS poll finds that 71% of the publ...read more

Competitive Primaries Are Good for Parties

Apr 4, 2008 - Recently, Governor Phil Bredeson proposed a June Democratic superdelegate primary so the party could settle on a nominee and enter the convention united in its task to win the White House. Implicit in his proposal, Governor Bredeson assumes that a protracted nomination fight divides the party and makes it difficult to win the general election. This assumption finds clear support in a recent Gallup Poll indicating that 28% of Hillary Clinton supporters would not support Barack Obama and 19% of Obama supporters would not support Clinton in November. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, competitive primaries only divide the party in the short term. The focus on the general election...read more

What Does Change Mean?

Mar 5, 2008 - In the 2008 presidential campaign, change is the operative theme and no candidate seems to better epitomize this than Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Obama’s compelling personal narrative and soaring rhetoric to bring people of all races together has convinced many people that “Yes, We Can.” But the question remains “do what?” Up to this point, Senator Obama has been vague about his definition of change which allows voters to read into it what they believe. However, as he fleshes out his message of change, he risks alienating voters whose definition of change differs. This potentially undermines his appeal, makes governing more difficult if he wins, and increases public cynicism. ...read more

How to Be a Pundit

Feb 1, 2008 - Due to the surprises in the presidential campaign, political analysts have been stunned, perplexed, excited, and, often, wrong. As we proceed toward Super Tuesday, here are some rules to help you understand the race and impress your friends with your political punditry skills. First, remember that the “winner” is not always the candidate with the most votes but the one who wins the expectations game. That is, the “winner” is the candidate that does better than predicted. Thus, Barack Obama’s dramatic win in Iowa reshaped the Democratic race by destroying Hillary Clinton’s aura of inevitability and leading voters to reconsider their support for her. Of course, you can lose the ...read more

Let the Voters Decide

Jan 9, 2008 - When asked who will win the football game, the smart aleck response is "whoever scores the most points." In politics, the smart aleck response to who will win the election could be "whoever wins the most votes." Yet, while the sports fan would actually be correct, the political analyst would not because the winner of the election is not the one with the most votes but the one who wins the expectations game. The expectations game is exactly what it says it is. Candidates have expectations that they must meet and if the do, it is a win. If they do not meet these expectations, it is a loss. Of course, the cardinal rule of every campaign is to set low expectations. That way you are...read more