An individual’s decision to participate in politics constitutes multiple decisions throughout the course of their lifetime. This post focuses on one type of political participation, voting. Every year, citizens head to the polls to elect representatives, support referendum, and voice their opinion on the issues. The act of voting on Election Day can be broken up into two component parts: the choice of who or what to vote for and the act, or behavior, of voting.
The Vote Decision
Individuals must decide who or what to vote for on Election Day; however, explaining the origins of candidate choice, issue opinions, and political attitudes is complicated. An individual’s political beliefs are formed early in life through a process known as political socialization. The worldview developed in childhood provides the frame through which the political world is evaluated. As children age, life experiences pull them in one political direction or the other. The Vietnam War, for example, pulled youth in the 1960’s and 1970’s against war and toward the Democratic Party.
Individuals begin to identify with a political party early on and once this identification is solid, it is a powerful predictor of vote choice. There is debate about the stability of party identification over the course of an individual’s lifetime. Some research suggests that this identification can and does change in light of new information. Other research finds that party identification, an affective identity with a political party, moves only in periods of political realignment (i.e., the realignment of the Southern Democrats to the Republican Party) or large social change. Either way, party identification remains the primary predictor of vote choice for a majority of the electorate.
“Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”
Justice Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson
As a previous post articulated, civil rights protect individuals from discrimination by the government and other individuals. Almost two hundred years after the eradication of slavery in the United States, the fight for the civil rights of African Americans continues. Let us reflect briefly on how far the nation has come. Continue reading
Spring Break is finally here for Ohio State students! Some of you may be preparing to head to the beach, to go home, or to generally revel in the fact that you do not have any readings, quizzes, or exams for the entire week! Whatever you are doing, I want to encourage you to start thinking about the 2016 elections. Yes, Election Day is a year and half away (November 8th, 2016), but party primaries begin as early as January 2016. It is never too early to discover the issues, parties, and candidates!
Here are a few things to start considering for yourself: Continue reading
Civil liberties and civil rights are commonly used interchangeably, but they represent two fundamentally different principles. Civil liberties, based on the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution) and the “Due Process” Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, are political freedoms that protect individuals from government tyranny. Individual rights to speech, to privacy, and to bearing arms are examples of the civil liberties that we are guaranteed as U.S. citizens. Civil rights, on the other hand, protect individuals from discrimination by the government and other individuals and originate from the “Equal Protection” Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Civil rights guarantee the equality of all citizens; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are prime examples of laws instituted to ensure equal protection of all citizens under the law. Continue reading
In January, the Supreme Court announced it will review four cases pertaining to same-sex marriage in the United States. The fundamental constitutional question at stake in these cases is not whether same-sex marriage is or is not okay, it is whether or not the states have the right to define marriage for their residents. Do states have the legal authority to define and regulate marriage or does that authority rest with the central government? Thus, this debate involves the merits of our federalist system.
In divided government, obstructionist tactics on both sides of the political aisle are commonplace. Previous posts on this site have pointed this out. Parties and legislators use run-of-the-mill legislation and action to delay or frustrate efforts from the opposing political party or the president. The legislation or action may have little to do with what is being opposed; it merely acts as an opportunity for one side to try and get what they want from the other side. The use of the filibuster, a demonstration used to block or delay legislative action, is a common tactic. The sixteen-day long government shutdown in 2013 is an extreme example of modern day obstruction.
While real and significant issues are being debated in these political exchanges, there are tangible and potentially harmful consequences to obstruction. One consequence of obstruction and divided government is the delay of appointments to the executive branch. Each congressional session, the president nominates and the Senate confirms hundreds of individuals to work in the executive branch. Over 100 civilian appointments wait for the Senate’s approval today, including President Obama’s Attorney General appointment, Loretta Lynch. Another consequence is agency shutdown. Currently, the funding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is at risk; if Congress does not reach a deal this week, the DHS will be shut down with many individuals, such as airport security officers, going without pay.