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CLIFFORD K. BERRYMAN 12/31/1931Table of Contents

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TX GOVT MARGIN NOTES

 

POLITICAL SOCIALIZATION

 

Political socialization is the process by which people acquire a set of political attitudes and form opinions about social issues.

Agents of Political Socialization

Family                     Neighbors

Peer group               Career

School                    Co-Workers

Religion                   Community organizations

Media                     Life stage

Higher education

 

Political values change almost throughout your life. The most important influences on your political values, however, found during your early life. Your family, school, community (religious organizations, youth groups, civic activities) and your peer groups have most profound effects. It is your family that gives you that basic attitude toward government that you will carry with you throughout your life.ELEPHANT & DONKEY

PARENTAL INFLUENCE ON PARTY ID

 

Democrat

Independent

Republican

Total

both parents Democrats

59%

29%

13%

100%

both parents Independents

17%

67%

16%

100%

both parents Republicans

12%

29%

59%

100%

                                                                                                                        -from National Election Study data

 

Family is the single most important factor in your political socialization. However, throughout your life, your political values influenced by college, adult peers (workers, friends, neighbors, spouses), political leaders, media and your political experiences. Too, maturation process alone will affect your political values. Until you have children, you will care little for public school issues. Until you own a home, you will care little for property tax issues. Political socialization, to a greater or lesser degree, will continue throughout your life.

 

POLITICAL SOCIALIZATIONThe opinions you form exist at three basic levels.

 

1.  values & beliefs

most abstract, broad principles

Sam Huntington – liberty equality, individualism, rule of law

 

2.  political orientation

translation of values & beliefs into a systematic way of assessing the political environment

partisanship (psychological attachment to a party) & ideology (consistent set of values & beliefs about the purpose and scope of government)

 

3.  political preferences

attitudes about specific issues / candidates

 

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TX GOVT MARGIN NOTES

 

PUBLIC OPINION

 

A VOTE GRAFFITI ON THE STREET – BY YI CHENPublic opinion is the collected attitudes of citizens on a given issue or question.

Governments tend to react to public opinion. The fact that a public official serves at the pleasure of the voters usually tends to make that official sensitive to public opinion.

American public opinion has some unique characteristics.

The public's attitudes toward a given government policy vary over time.

The majority of American voters stand somewhere near the middle ground on most issues in American politics.

Americans tend to fall into one of four categories based on how knowledgeable they are about politics & government.

opinion leaders

29%

informed public

34%

uninformed public

23%

politically clueless

13%

American citizens are more than willing to express opinions about things of which they are totally ignorant.

American public opinion is pragmatic, rather than ideological.

We may talk theoretically but we act practically. That doesn't mean we don’t have political ideologies ... it means we probably aren’t ideologues in the true sense of the word.

 

I. public opinion polls

instruments by which we discover the public’s opinion on an issue at a given point in time

The population is the group of people you’re interested in studying.

The sample is that part of the population considered to represent the entire population.

A poll is a type of survey or inquiry into public opinion conducted by interviewing a representative sample of the population.

population vs. sample / target population vs. random sample

A random sample is the result of a process that selects a sample from the larger population entirely by chance.

A poll’s sampling error tells you how much confidence you can have in the findings of the poll. The smaller the sampling error is, the more confidence you can have that the findings are accurate. The larger the sample is in relation to the population, the smaller the error. In general, you should look for a sampling error of 3% … any poll with an error larger than 5% is probably not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Properly conducted scientific polls are highly accurate and the data generated by an opinion poll are used to measure and analyze public opinion.

 

SLOPs (self-selected listener opinion polls), CRAPS (computerized response audience polling), intercept polls, FRUG polls (fund raising under the guise of polls) and push polls are neither scientific nor accurate.

Real Clear Politics    DANCING STAR TO DENOTE GOOD SITE

SURVEY USA FAQs

Polling Report
Gallup
Rasmussen
Zogby

The Texas Lyceum

 

II. Qualities of Public Opinion

 

1.  Direction

a.  positive

b.  negative

2.  Shape

a.  normal curve

b.  bimodal

c.  skewed

3.  Stability / Continuity

a.  amount of change in shape over time

4.  Intensity

a.  strong

b.  mild

c.  neutral

 

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TX GOVT MARGIN NOTES

 

THE MEDIA

 

 

I. Media-Politics Process

 

        Information seldom full or complete

        Candidates exploit issues in advertisements

        Information becomes altered

        Information becomes short, simple & highly thematic

        Leads to the increasing importance of political advertisingPRESS CONFERENCE

 

Media Effect on Politics

Positives                                                            Negatives

Increased knowledge                                             Increased voter skepticism

Agenda setting                                                     Reduced choice of candidates

Candidate orientation                                             Politics as a game for the financial elite

Candidate issue positions

Media technology gives candidates tools

Media help candidates identify "hot" issues

 

5 Ways New Media Are Changing Politics

 

II. Network News Coverage

 

More negative than ads

One-third of candidate messages are negative

Two-thirds of news coverage is negative

Structural bias in media

Early negative coverage is hard to shake

Networks shape sound bites from stories

Emphasizes the dramatic

No meaningful context

 

III. Political Advertising

 

Convey information that will evoke positive feelings about the candidate

Information can be positive or negative

Define candidate & issue positions

Define opponents

Candidate controls content

Candidate controls the appeal

Stress image and issues

Measure citizens responses

Reinforce long-held predispositions about issues, personalities, political parties

Increasingly negative

positive ads have to run again and again and again to stick

negative ads move poll numbers in three or four days

system rewards those who win — more important than voter turnout

NEGATIVE ADVERTISING RESEARCH

 

What does the research say about negative advertising?

Negative ads do not increase participation.

Negative ads reduce positive attitudes toward candidates and races.

Attack advertising extracts a toll on participation — voting drops by 2.5% with negative ads & increases by the same amount with a positive ad. It's strongest effect is on independents.

Provides valuable information.

Reveals information about candidate's strengths or weaknesses.

Stimulates the base into action.

More knowledgeable voters are most likely to pay attention to ads.

Negative ads are given more weight.

Negative ads produce stronger emotional effects than positive ads.

 

THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF UNCIVIL POLITICAL DISCOURSE

 

Political Advertising Strategies

 

1. Appeal to Authority

cite an authority who is not qualified to have an expert opinionPOLITICAL AD CARTOON

cite an expert when other experts disagree on the issue

cite an expert by hearsay only

2. Appeal to Force

predict dangerous outcomes if follow a course other than yours

3. Appeal to Popularity / Bandwagon

hold an opinion to be valuable because large numbers of people support it

4. Attacking the Person

attack the person making the argument, not the argument

attack the person making the argument because of those with whom he associates

insinuate that the person making the argument would stand to gain by it

5. False Dilemma

offer a limited number of options — usually two — when there are really more choices

6. Hasty Generalization

use a sample too small to support the conclusion

7. Slippery Slope

threaten a series of increasingly dire consequences from taking a different course of action

A PRIMER ON PERSUASION & INFLUENCE    DANCING STAR TO DENOTE GOOD SITE

PROPAGANDA CRITIC

AD CRITIC

The 30 Second Candidate

the living room candidate

 

IV. Trends

Fragmentation of audiences and outlets

Shift from networks toward more diverse sources such as radio, local TV, Internet

Tabloidization of news

Fierce commercial pressures

Permanent campaigns leading to constant polls, focus groups and electronic town meetings

Texas Newspapers and Media    DANCING STAR TO DENOTE GOOD SITE

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TX GOVT MARGIN NOTES

 

VOTING BEHAVIOR

 

 

I. Forms of Political ParticipationPOLITICAL PARTICIPATION VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

 

   A. inactives, 22%

   B. voting specialists, 21%

   C. parochial participants, 4%

   D. campaigners, 15%

   E. communalists, 20%

   F. complete activists, 11%

 

II. Voter Turnout Data

 

    A. regional patterns

        1) northern and middle states — higher

        2) western and southern states — lower

        3) link turnout to political culture

 

    B. calculating turnout

        1) voting age population — all adults over 18

        2) registered voters — citizens registered to vote

        3) turnout based on registered voters higher than VAP

 

Voting is the principal means of political participation for most Texans.

Years of formal schooling is the single best socioeconomic predictor of the likelihood of an individual to vote.

Texans are most likely to learn political information about candidates from advertising materials prepared by the candidates.

 

III. Low Turnouts in Texas

 

      A. current registration laws

          1) citizen — many immigrants in Texas cannot vote

          2) 18 years old

          3) 30-day registration deadline (longer than most states)

 

      B. historical barriers

          1) $1.75 poll tax — a device used in Texas to prevent many lower income persons from voting during much of the 20th century

          2) annual registration required

          3) white primaries — primaries in one-party state determine winner of general election

          4) property requirements for local electionsTX MINORITY VOTING

          5) women’s suffrage

 

      C. unique social factors in Texas that lower turnout

          1) higher poverty rates

          2) large minority population

          3) large immigrant population

          4) lower than average educational levels

          5) lower than average age

 

      D. lack of two-party competition

          1) one-party Democratic from end of Reconstruction until 1970s

          2) same case in most former Confederate states

 

      E. traditional/individual culture

 

      F. staggered local elections

 

Voting is the principal means of political participation for most Texans. Texans are most likely to learn political information about candidates and make their voting decisions based on advertising materials prepared by the candidates. The legal voting requirements include 18 years of age, thirty days residency, registered, and no felony offenses. Approximately 45% of all eligible voters have turned out to vote in elections since 1960. The best socioeconomic predictor of the likelihood to vote is the number of years of formal schooling. The voter turnout among Hispanics and Blacks is usually low because they feel they have little stake in politics. As a general rule, whites vote; minorities do not. Older people and those with higher incomes vote, while the young and poor do not. Those with professional jobs vote; those with blue- and pink-collar jobs do not. This should not be surprising since various means to prevent these people from voting have been used throughout our history.  Literacy tests and the white primary were aimed at minorities. The poll tax was used to prevent many lower income persons from voting during much of the 20th century.  How frequent a voter are you? Do you fit the stereotypes above?

Project Vote Smart - Texas

Vote: The Machinery of Democracy

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TX GOVT MARGIN NOTES

 

INTEREST GROUPS

 

An interest group is an organization of individuals with similar views that tries to influence government to respond favorably to those views.

The principal purpose of interest group activity is to influence government to respond to the group’s objectives.

 

I. Types of Interest GroupsGROUP ORGANIZATION & INTEREST

 

   A. membership organizations

       1) business (dominant)

       2) agriculture

       3) professional organizations (doctors, lawyers, teachers)

       4) labor unions (weak in Texas, a right-to-work state)

       5) ethnic (NAACP, LULAC)

       6) religious organizations

 

   B. nonmembership organizations

       individual businesses not part of a membership organization

 

   C. local governments

 

II. Techniques Used by Interest Groups

 

    A. lobbying — communication by a representative of a group directed at a government official in order to influence the official’s decisions.

        1) legislature

            -providing information, communications with constituents, filing bills

        2) executive agencies

            -influence implementation of laws

        3) types of lobbyists

            -contract

            -in-house

            -government (local)

            -citizen

            -private individual

 

    B. electioneering — form a PAC

1) donate $ to campaign

2) media strategy (TV ads, newspaper ads)

3) raise $ for candidates

4) campaign volunteers

 

    C. grassroots lobbying — shape public opinion

 

Political Party and Interest Group Alliances

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III. Interest Group Power

 

      A. money - oil and gas industry

      B. membership — strength in numbers (teachers)

      C. hire former legislators — former members know system and the current members

      D. distribution across stateINTEREST GROUP GRAPHIC

          1) wide distribution — strong

          2) narrow or limited distribution — weaker

 

IV. Comparing Interest Group Power Across States

 

     A. diversity

         1) more diverse economy — more groups, less influence

         2) less diverse economy — few dominant groups, more influence

 

     B. party strength

         1) weak two-party competition — strong groups

         2) strong two-party system — weak groups

 

     C. structure of state government

         1) decentralized executive structure — strong groups 

             -iron triangle (legislative committee, executive agency, interest group)

 

         2) centralized executive structure — weaker groups

 

An interest group is any organized group whose members have common views about certain issues and so try to influence the government. There are a number of distinct differences between political parties and interest groups. For example, the purpose of a political party is strictly political. Parties want to win elections. The purpose of an interest group, however, is to represent its members' interests. This may mean supporting a winning candidate but it means many other things as well, such as influencing legislation. Interest groups differ on membership, as well. The membership of a political party is extensive (broad activity) and inclusive (everyone) – meaning they include everyone who is interested in a broad range of issues. By contrast, interest groups have a membership that is intensive (specific act) and exclusive (not every) – only those people who share their opinions on a narrow range of issues are welcomed. Be careful, though, since in recent years the parties have from time to time been captured by small groups that acts more like interest groups than political parties. The antiwar Democrats of the 1970s and the fundamentalist Christian Republicans of the 1980s and 1990s are two good examples. Because Texas has traditionally had weak political parties, it has had very strong interest groups to fill the gap.

 

All interest groups have three general functions. First, they act to identify, aggregate, and express the interests of different segments of society. Second, they gather and disseminate information. Third, they provide expertise to the government and to their members. Depending on whom they are trying to influence, interest groups use a number of techniques to carry out these functions. In the executive and legislative arenas, interest groups engage in lobbying, which is presenting views directly to government officials. Lobbying is one of the most successful techniques that interest groups have. Therefore, a lobbyist's most important asset is access. Can he readily meet with legislators and executives? Lobbying is very effective because the legislature lacks independent sources of information. Interest groups also attempt to influence the legislative and executive branches by influencing elections with money, votes, volunteers, and endorsements. This is known as electoral activity or electioneering. In order to circumvent campaign contribution laws, interest groups set up PACs, or political action committees.  The central purpose of a PAC is to provide campaign funds for candidates. Most of the recently organized PACs are associated with corporations which are not allowed to make campaign contributions. Interest groups have become such a powerful force in the Texas legislature, they are often referred to as the "third house."

 

In the bureaucratic arena, interest groups regularly attempt to influence the legislature in order to bring about an increase or a decrease in the appropriations to agencies that work with or against the interest group. Interest groups often have a direct involvement in developing and implementing programs run by the bureaucracy. We often speak of an iron triangle that exists between legislators, bureaucrats, and lobbyists. These groups often become so intertwined and interdependent that it is hard to tell who is who.

 

In the judicial arena, small, not-so-popular interest groups that have little money and little chance of winning in the legislature are more active since these techniques are less expensive than other techniques. Interest groups frequently file amicus curiae briefs. These "friend of the court" briefs express the opinion of the interest group on a case that is appearing before the court in an attempt to influence the judge’s ruling. The three largest filers of amicus curiae briefs are the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP. A more extensive technique used in the judicial arena is sponsoring test cases. Often, interest groups will use a particular person or incident as a test case of the constitutionality of a particular law. Two excellent examples of test cases sponsored by interest groups were Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and Roe v. Wade. In those states where judges are elected, interest groups may engage in electoral activity although, as with the legislative and executive arenas, this technique can be quite expensive.

 

Finally interest groups attempt to influence you and me. In the public arena, interest groups engage in grass roots activities, which include a whole list of techniques from advertising to mass mailings. While interest groups are often vilified in the U.S., they play an important role in a democracy. They allow citizens to become actively engaged in influencing the government on issues that are of importance to them. In fact, one in three Americans are members of one or more interest groups.  As with voting, higher, educated, higher income, professionals are most likely to be members of interest groups. Do you belong to or have you thought of belonging to an interest group?  Why or why not?  If you’ve never joined an interest group, give it a try! You might find that you like the experience.

Open Secrets

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TX GOVT MARGIN NOTES

 

POLITICAL PARTIES

Texas has weak parties and strong interest groups.

The principal purpose of political party activity is to gain control of government by winning elections.

 

DEPICTION OF TX POLITICAL PARTIESI. 50 Two-Party Systems

 

   A. state parties independent of national organizations

       1) few national offices, many state offices

       2) common goals and similar issues, but separate organizations

 

   B. state party ideology

       1) competitive vs. noncompetitive states

       2) policy-relevant vs. non-policy-relevant states

       3) Texas

           -not competitive, Republican dominance

           -not policy relevant — old southern Democrats similar to new Republicans

           -traditional culture, small government, low taxes

 

 

 

II. Party Realignment in Texas

 

    A. One-party Democratic

1) end of Reconstruction through 1970s

        2) southern Democratic hostility to party of Lincoln, Reconstruction, Yankees

        3) conservative Democrats dominate party — landowners and merchants

        4) no competition for almost a century

        5) Yellow Dog Democrats

 

    B. a very gradual realignment from top to bottom

        1) 1950s presidential elections — Eisenhower over Stevenson

        2) 1961 — first Republican senator since Reconstruction (Tower)

        3) 1970s — first Republican governor since Reconstruction (Clements)

        4) 1980s — Democratic defectors (Gramm)

        5) 1990s — Republican dominance ushered in by Bush

        6) 21st century Republicans taking traditional Democratic county offices

         

Probably the single factor most responsible for Republican growth in Texas after WWII was

the increased size and prosperity of the Texas middle and upper classes.

    C. voter profiles

               Republicans                                 Democrats

               suburbs                                      urban areas

               younger                                      older

               new Texans                                 old and native Texans

               white                                         minorities

               Protestant                                  Catholic

Which of the following policies would a conservative support?

a.      strengthening the hand of labor unions

b.      tighter government regulations of factory emissions of pollutants

c.      strengthening protection of women, ethnic minorities, and the disabled in employment discrimination matters

d.      reduction or elimination of the graduated income tax

 

Which of the following policies would a liberal support?

a.      restricting the ability of a woman to obtain an abortion

b.      prohibiting gays and lesbians from holding public employment

c.      laws that provide equal pay for equal work for women

d.      reducing the progressiveness of the national income tax

    D. de-alignment and the declining influence of parties

        1) more independent voters

        2) party outsiders winning party nominations       

        3) media weeds out candidates, not party leaders

        4) raise $ from individuals and interest groups, not just parties

        5) well-funded candidates have upper hand, not party organizations

 

    E. third-party movements in Texas

        1) Raza Unida (1970s)

        2) Libertarians (1990s)

        3) Ross Perot

 

III. The State Party Organization

     

      A. permanent — continuity between electionsChart Showing Structure of Major Political Parties in Texas

          1) precinct chair — basic level in the party organization in Texas

          2) county chair and executive committee

          3) state chair and executive committee

 

      B. temporary — only during election years

          1) precinct convention — held on primary election day, must vote in primary

              -select delegates to

          2) county or district convention

              -select delegates to

          3) state convention

              -select national convention delegates

              -nominate electors for electoral college (presidential election years only)

              -write party platform

 

      C. delegate selection systems

          1) primary elections used in Texas

          2) caucus — Iowa

 

Political parties in the United States are composed of two different structures. The permanent party structure is those people and organizations that keep the party functioning on a daily basis. The permanent party structure has three parts. The party organization is composed of all those activists, volunteers and party officials that are active in the day-to-day functioning of the party. The party organization is organized like the federal government – it has organizations at the national, state, and local levels. That means it is decentralized – decisions and money flow from the bottom to the top. The party organization is also diverse – each organization has its own unique flavor. Among the people in the party organization are the party officials. Check with your text to find out the duties of the following party officials and how they are chosen: the national chair and vice chair, the national executive committee, the state chair and vice chair, the state executive committee, the county chair and county executive committee, and the precinct chair. The precinct chair is the basic level in the party organization in Texas.

 

The party-in-government, the second part of the permanent party organization, is composed of all those elected government officials of the party. You will frequently find conflict between the party organization and the party-in-government over who is in charge of the party and who should determine its course, beliefs, strategy, platform, and so forth. Because of the rise of candidate-centered campaigns, candidates no longer need party permission or support to get elected. Too, the party cannot determine who uses its name. Thus government officials are elected with the label of the party, but without party support, endorsement or loyalty.

 

The party-in-the-electorate is all those people who identify with the party. Party identification makes it more likely that people will get involved in politics. Independents vote in much less numbers than do people who are self-identified as belonging to a party.

 

The second major structure of US political parties is the temporary party structure, sometimes called the Convention System. The temporary party structure occurs every two years beginning with the primary election and ending with the national convention. It may involve people who have no real connection with the party, but rather are ideologues or one-issue groups that do not necessarily represent the party as a whole (much less the voters). Nonetheless, because these people attend the party conventions in large numbers, it is these people who decide party issues. The convention system is described in detail in your text. It consists of the precinct convention/caucus, the county convention, the state convention, and the national convention. Each convention level has its own responsibilities. The national convention adopts a national platform and rules, elects a national chair and vice chair, and selects the party’s presidential nominee every 4 years. The state convention adopts a state platform and rules, elects a national committeeman and committeewoman, elects delegates to the national convention, elects the state chair and vice chair, and elects the district committeemen and committeewomen who make up the state executive committee. The county convention adopts the county platform and rules, and elects delegates to the state convention. The precinct convention adopts precinct resolutions and elects delegates to the county convention. As we spend more time on elections, you will begin to see the how the role of the parties has changed over the last two hundred years.

 

From the end of Reconstruction until the late 1970s, the Democratic Party dominated Texas politics. The Republican Party began to grow, however, following WWII with the increased size and prosperity of the middle and upper classes in Texas. The first Republican official elected to a statewide office was John Tower, who was elected to the US Senate in 1961. The Republican base generally lies in urbanized, rapidly growing areas that contain lots of non-Texans. African Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic. This has been true of Hispanics as well, although the latter may be changing.

 

The majority of American voters stand somewhere near the middle ground on many issues of American politics. Where do you place yourself politically?   Now, most importantly, why?  If you think you are a conservative ... why?   If you think you are a liberal ... why?  Don't look at only one or two issues.   Look at a broad range of issues.

 

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TX GOVT MARGIN NOTES

 

CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS

 

 

I. Ballot Rules

 

   A. form

       1) party column — more straight ticket votingELECTIONS AHEAD SIGN

       2) office block — more split ticket voting

       3) hybrid ballot

 

   B. access

            1) independent candidate — petition signed by 1% of voters in last governor election

       2) signers must be registered voters who did not vote in a Democratic or Republican primary

       3) write-in candidates — must declare candidacy for votes to count

 

   C. minor parties — between 5% and 19% of vote for statewide office

       1) must hold nominating conventions, but not primary elections

       2) slip below 5% for statewide office, lose ballot status

 

II. Primary Elections

for parties receiving more than 20% of the vote for statewide office

    A. types

        1) open

        2) closed

        3) nonpartisan

        4) blanket

        5) Texas primary elections are classified as closed primaries where the voter signifies party membership by voting in a primary

 

    B. open vs. closed primaries

        1) raiding or crossover voting — more common in open primary

 

    C. runoff primaries — In order to obtain a primary nomination in Texas, a candidate must receive a simple majority of the popular vote

        1) mostly in south, vestige of one-party Democratic rule

        2) no crossover voting from primary to runoff primary

US Electoral CollegeDANCING STAR TO DENOTE GOOD SITE

Fair Vote

270 To Win

Atlas of US Presidential Elections

Electoral College

Presidential  Election

Election Glossary

PROJECTED CONGRESSIONAL SEATS BY STATE

 

III. Miscellaneous

 

      A. 1965 Voting Rights Act

          1) preclearance

          2) Spanish ballots for areas with more than 20% Spanish speakers

      B. absentee ballot — soldiers mostly

      C. early voting 22 days before election, open to all voters

      D. upper-class bias in early voting?

 

IV. Modern Campaigns

 

     A. old system

         1) local campaigns, limited statewide media

         2) tell each county what they want to hear, suit message to each venue

 

     B. new system

         1) mass media, same message

         2) speak in sound bites

         3) campaign ads

             -feel good

             -sainthood

             -good old boy

             -NOOTS

             -bashers

 

     C. role of consultants

         1) sell candidate as a product, package the candidate

         2) image and message, not the issues

 

     D. role of the PAC

1) political action committee - common term for a committee set up to raise & spend money to elect & defeat candidates

2) most PACs represent ideological, business or labor interests

3) can’t buy an election

4) can buy access

5) late train financing—post election fund-raising especially if PAC supported loser

WhoPaidThem.com - a game about political money

There are two electoral processes that occur in the US. The primary process is the stage at which the members of a political party decide which candidate will represent the party in the general election. In other words, all Republicans will decide which one Republican gets to run for each office. Today, the primary process is usually, but not always, conducted through elections. Originally, most states used a primary caucus, a meeting of the party’s leadership. The leadership then decided which candidates would represent the party. Many states eventually used a more inclusive method, the primary convention. In a convention method, party members choose delegates to represent them at a convention. Those delegates then choose the party’s candidates at convention. A few states still use some variation of the caucus or convention method. All states still use the convention to make party decisions. Too, this is how both major parties pick their party’s nominee for president.

 

Most states, however, have begun to use primary elections. Filing fees charged to the candidates pay for primary elections. These fees are subsidized by state funds. The administration of elections in Texas is the direct responsibility of the county. Primary elections have a number of characteristics that separate them from primary caucuses and conventions. Primary elections test a candidate’s popularity and his ability to organize early, but they do not test his ability to serve well if elected. Primary elections are lengthy. Only candidates who can afford to spend a lot of money and to not work are able to run for office. Primary elections have brought about an increased reliance on the media. Candidates who must reach not simply party leaders or convention delegates but the entire population from which they are being elected, have to turn to the media to get their message out.  A candidate who is seeking statewide office in Texas is most likely to rely heavily on media advertising.

 

Primary elections have contributed to the rising importance of activists. For better or worse, ideologically extreme voters turn out for primary elections in much higher numbers than other voters. That means that ideologically extreme candidates can win the primary, but they can't win the general election. Or, if both parties offer ideologically extreme candidates in the general election, voters turn away from both candidates and from voting altogether.  In the general population, conservatives support things such as the reduction or elimination of the graduated income tax, while liberals would support policies that protect women, gays and minorities.  In the primaries, however, very extreme ideological positions are normal.

 

Finally, primary elections weaken the role of the party. Anyone can declare his candidacy in a party’s primary. This means that parties are often stuck with candidates with whom they do not agree or candidates they do not like. In recent years, the Democrats have been saddled with Linden LaRouche and the Republicans with David Duke.

 

The actual conduct of primary elections varies widely from state to state. There are, however, three basic types of primary elections. Closed primaries are most frequently used since they offer the parties the most control. Open primary elections allow broader choices for voters. The most voter-controlled primary is the blanket, or free love, primary. This is an excellent primary for offering voters a wide range of choices – which is precisely why parties dislike them. For complete definitions of these primaries, refer to your text.  The Texas primary election is classified as a closed primary where the voter signifies party membership by voting in the primary.

 

Once parties have chosen their candidates, the general election is held to determine which candidate will hold the office. Unlike primaries, which are controlled by each state, federal law governs general elections. That means that the general election is held in the same way on the same day throughout the country. The general election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even numbered years. Only a plurality (the most votes) is needed to win. That is why officeholders can be elected with only thirty-five percent of the votes, for example. It only takes one more vote to win a general election. (By contrast, in Texas you must get at least fifty percent of the vote (a simple majority)  in order to win a primary election – thus often leading to primary runoffs.)

 

Useful Websites

History of Campaign Commercials

Museum of the Moving Image

Truth or Fiction

Annenberg Political Fact Check

Democracy Net

Project Vote Smart

ProCon.org

POLITIFACT.COM

TEXAS ELECTION NIGHT RETURNS

 

            POLITIFACT'S TRUTH-O-METER

 

 

A complete list of candidates as well as all voting rules and regulations … and probably a list of polling places is at www.sos.state.tx.us.

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Copyright 1996 Amy S Glenn
Last updated: 09 Jul 2014 07:14