A Semester Abroad as a Political Science Major

by Jennifer Chavez Rivera, BA Political Science 2017

I spent the fall semester of my senior year in warm, sunny Alicante, España… and it was AMAZING. Although I spent a lot of time at the beach, airports and exploring several different countries, I was also able to learn a lot about the Spanish Government and the European Union. It was definitely an interesting time to be living in Spain, as they technically had not had an official president nor government in place for several months. The Spanish citizens had been through two voting sessions and were anticipating a third one because the main parties in Spain’s political system could not agree on a candidate to preside over their parliament. In the meantime, Spain’s former President Mariano Rajoy was filling the role of president without any authority and was ultimately voted back into power (you might have thought the U.S. was the only country having a bumpy ride leading up to the presidential elections… definitely not the case!).

One of the courses I took through the USAC program at La Universidad de Alicante was titled “Political and Economic Institutions of the European Union”. This course focused on the main institutions within the European Union along with learning about the history behind it. As the course content unfolded, it was interesting to use our Brexit discussions to predict the results of the U.S. presidential election. The professor was very curious to hear how we felt about American Politics at the time as much as we were curious about the impact of Brexit. One of my favorite parts of this course was our field trip to EUIPO which is the European Union Intellectual Property Office. Surprisingly enough, we learned about trademarks and marketing in a very entertaining manner. It was nice to tour and learn about such a critical institution in the European Union, which was located alongside the Mediterranean coast of Alicante.

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Last but not least, it was very common to have people personally ask, “So how do you feel about Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton?” several times a week. Although many people do not enjoy talking about politics with others, it was interesting to discuss them with Spanish locals. They certainly had a lot to say about their perception of the U.S. election. Additionally, I appreciated the fact that we heard various points of view around the different European countries we visited. The narratives within the major newspapers were also very intriguing. Another interesting topic to discuss and compare viewpoints on was regarding refugees and immigrants in the EU. There were certainly people on both sides of the issue, however it was rather appalling to identify which countries were more openly in favor of allowing refugees into their home. For example, Madrid, España had a large banner saying “REFUGEES WELCOME” outside one of their governmental buildings.

 

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I am very happy I decided to study abroad. It is probably the best experience I have had and if I could do it over again, I would—except this time I would do it for an entire academic year. Although my course schedule was not heavily based on political science courses, I engaged in political science-type topics in my day-to-day activities and gained so much knowledge about politics outside of the United States. These experiences have put my academic career into perspective and have reassured my interest in political science. I strongly encourage all students to check out the different study abroad programs available through the University of Iowa, there are certainly some political science based programs as well!

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Filling Scalia’s Seat

by Professor Hagle

Last week it was announced that the confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the next member of the US Supreme Court would be held (or begin) on March 20.  With those hearings about a month away it seems a good time to consider what we can expect from the hearings.  It should be no surprise that the hearings are likely to be very political.  To explain why it is worth taking a brief look back at how we got to this point of intense partisanship regarding judges, and particularly the confirmation of justices to the Supreme Court.

220px-samuel_chase(Associate Justice Samuel Chase)

It’s certainly not new for there to be partisan politics regarding the Supreme Court.  In 1804 the US House of Representatives impeached Justice Samuel Chase.  Although Chase had “an abrasive personality,” to put it politely, a part of his impeachment stemmed from a desire on the part of President Jefferson’s party to remove a Federalist from the bench.  (Chase was acquitted of the impeachment charges, so not removed from office.)  In the mid-1860s a Republican Congress kept President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, from appointing anyone to the Supreme Court by reducing the number of justices on the Court as justices retired or died.  A more familiar example might be the court packing plan of President Franklin Roosevelt.  FDR was unhappy that the Supreme Court kept declaring New Deal legislation unconstitutional and proposed a plan to add enough justices to the Court so that he would have a majority in favor of his legislative agenda.

These and other famous examples tend to involve the Court itself or particular justices.  Although there have always been political considerations in the nomination and confirmation of justices as well, the process changed dramatically with the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987.

robert_bork (Robert Bork)

Bork earned his law degree from the University of Chicago and had been a law professor, the Solicitor General of the US, and a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  In terms of his legal training and experience he was certainly qualified to be a justice of the Supreme Court.  Politically, however, the Democrats in the Senate found him far from acceptable.  This was partly due to his role in the Watergate investigation when, as Acting Attorney General, he fired the Special Prosecutor.  It was also due to his judicial philosophy, his academic writings, and because of some cases he had worked on.

Even before Bork was nominated Senate Democrats were working to consolidate opposition to anyone they would consider an ideological extremist.  For them, Bork was in that category.  On the day Bork’s nomination was announced then-Senator Edward Kennedy gave what has come to be known as the “Bork’s America” speech.  As you might guess, the speech was a full-throated attack on Bork and it helped to solidify the opposition to his nomination.  Bork and the Reagan administration were unprepared for the tactics used against Bork and the nomination failed.

Again, political partisanship was not new to judicial politics, but it reached a new level with the Bork nomination.  In addition, it was first set of Supreme Court confirmation hearings where television played an important role.  Because of the controversy, more people watched the confirmation hearings, which also meant that many of the Senators were playing to the cameras.

As a result of Bork’s failed nomination, over the next 20 or so years nominations to the Supreme Court became increasingly politicized.  The confirmation process became even more of a public relations campaign and the hearings became less about the nominee and more about finding ways to score political points.

For the most part, partisan fights over judicial nominees focused on the Supreme Court.  This changed somewhat during the administration of President George W. Bush when Senate Democrats help up several of his nominees to the federal courts of appeal.  Some thought that blocking these nominees would prevent Bush from giving them some judicial experience, which would make them better candidates should a vacancy occur on the Supreme Court.  Another possible reason for blocking these nominees was to signal to any justices on the Court that they shouldn’t retire as there would be a major political fight over their replacements.  We might have expected one or two of the conservative justices to have retired during the first term of the Bush administration, but none did, so perhaps the strategy worked.

Bush eventually got two nominees on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, but there was substantial resistance on the part of Senate Democrats to both.  In President Obama’s first term he also got two nominees on the Court, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.  Previously, Senate Republicans had offered little resistance to liberal nominees (e.g., Breyer and Ginsburg), but now started to be more willing to vote against such nominees on political grounds.  Even so, both Sotomayor and Kagan were easily confirmed.

That brings us to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia during the last year of Obama’s administration.  Scalia’s unexpected death provided Obama with an opportunity to replace one of the Court’s solid conservatives with a liberal.  In terms of ideology, the Court had four liberals and five conservatives with Scalia, though Kennedy has voted with the liberals on several key issues.  Thus, replacing Scalia with another liberal would give the left a solid majority on the Court.  Not surprisingly, Senate Republicans were not happy about this and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly indicated that no Obama nominee would be confirmed by the Senate.  The Senate certainly could not stop the president from nominating someone, though McConnell’s suggestion infuriated Senate Democrats.  Eventually, Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, but Senate Republicans indicated that they would not even hold hearings for him, let alone have a vote.

Aside from the partisan politics, the gamesmanship in this is interesting.  Garland was actually a fairly moderate pick by Obama.  Garland had apparently been on the short list for the nomination that went to Sotomayor.  Of the several people on that list, Garland would have been the most acceptable to Senate Republicans.  Of course, from the Republicans’ perspective, a moderate liberal is still a liberal and would be replacing the right’s favorite conservative justice.  By nominating Garland instead of a more liberal person Obama made it harder for the Senate Republicans to reject him.  Republicans countered by not even engaging in the discussion of Garland’s qualifications, which they would have had to do had they held hearings for him.

As much as it was unprecedented for the Senate to keep a seat on the Supreme Court open for so long, it wasn’t that unusual for the Court to have fewer than nine members (it actually started with five in the late 1700s).  It’s also not unusual for the current Court to have fewer than nine members participating given that some justices do not participate in some cases due to illness or conflicts of interest.  It’s unfortunate that a few cases might end up in tie votes, which means the lower court case is automatically affirmed, but it happens.

To defend themselves against criticisms of rank partisanship for not even holding hearings on Garland, Senate Republicans invoked the “Biden Rule.”  In a speech in 1992 then-Senator Joe Biden suggested that if any vacancies occurred on the Supreme Court that they should not be filled until after the presidential election that year.  As a Democrat, Biden certainly preferred to have any vacancies filled by the Democrats’ presidential nominee Bill Clinton were he to win the election, which of course he did.  No vacancies occurred that year, so the rule wasn’t put to the test, but the fact Democrats were willing to consider it in 1992 gave some cover to Republicans in 2016.

Another aspect to the gamesmanship was that unlike 1992 where the elder Bush could have won reelection in 2016 there would be a new president elected.  At the time of Scalia’s death it was fairly clear that Hillary Clinton would be the Democrats’ presidential nominee.  Donald Trump still wasn’t being taken all that seriously.  Thus, Senate Republicans probably thought that there would be a Republican president in 2017 to fill the vacancy.  As time when on, and it was clear Trump would be the Republican nominee, nearly everyone thought Clinton would win the election.  Even so, Senate Republicans continued to say that the next president should have the choice of a nominee.  That might have softened some of the criticism for leaving the seat vacant as allowing Clinton to fill it likely would have meant a more liberal nominee than Garland.

The big surprise, of course, was that Trump won the election and has now nominated Neil Gorsuch for the seat.

The strategy of Senate Republican may have worked in terms of getting an agreeable nominee, but the fight is far from over.  Although Gorsuch seems to be extremely well qualified from a legal perspective, Democrats will still put up a fight.  Thus far they haven’t attacked him much in terms of his ideology or rulings, though we can expect to hear the phrase “out of the mainstream of judicial thought” a lot as we get closer to the hearings and vote.

Aside from criticizing Gorsuch on his ideology and judicial philosophy, Democrats are still smarting over Garland not even getting a hearing and some have vowed to oppose him on that ground alone.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has justified this opposition by noting that the Republicans do not come to the table with “clean hands.”  In other words, he wants to do to Gorsuch what the Republicans did to Garland.  That’s understandable, but Democrats have an even flimsier ground to stand on than Republicans did given that Trump is in the first year of his term, so there is no Biden Rule or excuse of being in a presidential election year to justify their opposition.

Of course, Republicans still control the Senate, so Democrats won’t be able to prevent hearings for Gorsuch.  The Senate Judiciary Committee will likely recommend his confirmation to the full Senate on a party line vote.

Gorsuch will get a vote in the full Senate and will likely be confirmed, but how that occurs is still in question.  The reason is that unlike for most other presidential nominees, those to the Supreme Court still require a vote of 60 Senators to end debate.  This is called a cloture vote.  The 60-vote requirement to end debate was just a Senate rule and, interestingly enough, could be changed with just a majority vote in the Senate.  When Republicans were holding up some of Obama’s nominees then-Majority Leader Harry Reid used what was called the “nuclear option” to change the requirement to a simple majority vote for such nominees except those to the Supreme Court.

Thus, as it stands right now there would need to be 60 votes to end debate on the Gorsuch nomination.  The Republicans only hold 52 seats in the Senate.  That means eight Democrats (or the Independents who caucus with them) would need to at least vote to end debate even if they didn’t then vote to confirm Gorsuch.  Several Senate Democrats have suggested that Gorsuch should have an up or down vote, but it’s not clear they would actually vote to end debate, particularly given that it would effectively be a vote to put Gorsuch on the Court even if they voted against him later.  If not enough Democrats are willing to vote to end debate then Senate Republicans may have to invoke the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominations as well.  McConnell has not indicated that he would be willing to do so, but he has also said quite clearly that Gorsuch will be confirmed.

Republicans certainly didn’t like it when Democrats used the nuclear option, but they have also benefitted greatly from it to get several of Trump’s cabinet nominees approved.  Even so, Republicans may be somewhat wary about using it for Supreme Court nominees as they may be concerned that allowing a simple majority vote to confirm Supreme Court nominees would be used in the future to put extremely liberal nominees of a future president on the Court.  On the other hand, given the willingness of Senate Democrats to use the nuclear option in the first place, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t do so in the future if Senate Republicans tried to block the nominee of a Democrat.

Here’s one more thing to consider.  As much as Senate Democrats are mad about how Garland was treated and want to do what they can to frustrate Trump, Gorsuch replacing Scalia would just be one conservative replacing another.  It’s true that Gorsuch could serve for many years, but he wouldn’t change the ideological balance on the Supreme Court.  Democrats might not want to expend all their energy on the Gorsuch confirmation and get the Republicans to invoke the nuclear option just yet.  The bigger fight may come later when justices such as Ginsburg, Breyer, or Kennedy (all approaching or over 80 years old) may leave the Court.  Replacing any of those three would change the ideological balance on the Court and would be a more important fight for Democrats to have.

(Professor Hagle will be teaching POLI:3101 Ameican Constitutional Law and Politics and POLI:3121 The Judicial Process in the Fall 2017 semester)

 

 

 

Language policy and ethnic conflict in China

by Professor Tang

(This has been previously posted here)

Ethnic conflict has been on the rise in recent years in China, despite Chinese media portrayals of ethnic harmony. One commonly cited reason for such conflict by Western observers is economic inequality between the Han majority and the ethnic minorities. However, such inequality and the subsequent ethnic tension are a result of China’s state-sponsored affirmative action programs, and particularly the failure of its language policy.

Many Western observers take China’s cultural chauvinism for granted and frequently condemn China’s ethnic policies, among them forcing minority students to learn Chinese. Yet my observations based on travels in recent years in Xinjiang and Tibet, combined with other evidence collected in the course of my research, suggest that China’s ethnic language policy is far from being too restrictive. For instance, during a recent trip to an elementary school at the Base Camp of Mt. Everest in Dingri, Tibet, I noticed that the math class was taught in Tibetan. The principle of the school told me that Mandarin was supposed to be the teaching language but it was not enforced because the school did not have enough teachers who spoke Mandarin. The 2010 Chinese General Social Survey conducted by Renmin University found that the levels of education for Han and Uyghur respondents were the same: Both groups had an average of about 7 years of school education. But the Uygurs’ Mandarin proficiency was only 20% compared to the Han average of 100%. In other words, my inference is that while both groups were equally educated, the minorities were being educated in their own languages for the most part.

In addition to the shortage of Mandarin speaking teachers, another reason for minority regions’ Mandarin deficiency is the problem of bureaucratic turf war. For example, in the Education Law, all schools are required to use Mandarin as the language of instruction, while the Ethnic Autonomy Law encourages the use of ethnic languages in education. The inconsistency of language policy is also reflected in China’s policy toward the written form of the Uyghur language. In 1959, China decided to implement the use of the English alphabets in Xinjiang. Such a policy provided a common ground for Mandarin and Uyghur speakers, at least in the form of pinyin. In 1982, in the wave of reversing many of the Mao’s policies in the Cultural Revolution, China decided to abandon the English alphabets and return to the Arabic script. This policy temporarily satisfied some Uyghur intellectuals’ desire for ethnic equality but planted another seed for ethnic separatism.

Similar to many other multiethnic regions in the world, China also has a bilingual education policy. But in China’s bilingual education, ethnic languages are the teaching language and Mandarin is the second or foreign language, which is often neglected when the resources are limited. In contrast, in a country like Singapore, English is the language of instruction and ethnic languages such as Chinese, Tamil and Malay are taught as the second language.

The failure to teach Mandarin has created a serious barrier for minority students to get ahead in an economic environment dominated by the Mandarin speaking population. The emphasis on ethnic language education strengthened the group identity by ethnic minorities, who are accustomed to the idea of ethnic equality under the official propaganda. When they can’t find jobs, they naturally attribute such failure to being a member of their ethnicity and blame the government and society for discrimination. In contrast, in a market economic environment that encourages individual competition, people blame themselves for not having the necessary skills to succeed. Due to their Mandarin language deficiency, minority students are disadvantaged when they graduate from high school. They typically spend at least one extra year in college to catch up with their Mandarin proficiency, further falling behind their Han counterparts. In the labour market, they face the same difficulty in getting well paid jobs. In one recent trip to Turfan in Xinjiang, I met a Uyghur young man who just graduated from China Agriculture University in Beijing, majoring in meteorology. He complained to me in not very fluent Mandarin about not being able to find a job at the local meteorology bureau because, according to him, he was discriminated against. It is impossible to say if that is the case or not, but certainly he would have had a better chance if his Mandarin was more fluent.

In summary, China’s overly lenient language policy has resulted in minority students being less likely to go to college and to find good jobs. Their income is lower than the Han majority. Consequently, they become angry and blame the problem as discrimination. To solve this problem, promoting Mandarin education should be the first step. Admittedly, such a solution will face more fury from those who are already critical of China’s ethnic policies. Ultimately, it is a tradeoff between keeping ethnic languagse and cultural identity and improving the economic opportunities and conditions for minorities.

(Professor Tang will teach Introduction to Asian Politics: China in the Fall 17 semester)

Trump vs. Iran

by Professor Grossman

(this was previously posted at the Arcmag)

 

Iran presents a challenge for the incoming president. Donald Trump denounced the Iranian nuclear deal and stocked his administration with Iran hawks, indicating a confrontational approach. However, he also expressed a desire to partner with Russia in Syria, which means supporting Iran’s ally Bashar al-Assad. Balancing these conflicting goals will shape Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

The president-elect called the 2015 agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China, and Germany) the “worst deal ever negotiated.” But the United States gains nothing if he rips it up now.

Fulfilling its primary obligations, Iran sharply reduced its stockpiles of enriched uranium, reduced its ability to enrich more, and poured concrete into its one plutonium-producing reactor. IAEA inspectors and various intelligence agencies agree: Iran is now further from nuclear breakout than it has been in years.

However, critics point out that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire in 10–20 years (depending on the provision), and that Iran still acts against American interests, including:

  • supporting terrorist groups, most notably Hezbollah
  • threatening American friends and allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel
  • violating U.N. Security Council prohibitions regarding ballistic missiles
  • capturing American sailors who entered Iranian waters in January 2016 and releasing video of the incident

All true; all beside the point.

Maybe better negotiators could have convinced Iran to accept longer time limits or make concessions on non-nuclear issues. Maybe the P5+1 could have rejected the deal, imposed additional sanctions, and returned to negotiations in a year or two with more leverage. Or maybe the sanctions regime would have collapsed, with China or Russia choosing the economic benefits of trade with Iran over endless negotiations, leaving the U.S. with nothing.

We’ll never know. What we do know is that the United States has no leverage to renegotiate the deal now.

Widespread economic pressure got Iran to make concessions. Trump can pull out, but that won’t get the Europeans, let alone Russia or China, to reimpose sanctions. Unilateral sanctions, which the U.S. imposed following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, did little besides signal disapproval.

Those calling on Trump to rip up the deal either ignore the crucial question of leverage or offer handwaving solutions.

For example, National Review’s Ray Takeyh asserts that the Europeans will reimpose sanctions because they’ll “be eager to get along with” America’s new president, Russia will do it because Trump has a good relationship with Vladimir Putin, and then China won’t want to be the only holdout.

That’s wishful thinking.

Here’s the realistic choice facing the Trump administration: pull out unilaterally, or honor the existing agreement, watch Iran closely, and use the threat of military action to ensure Iranian compliance.

If Trump withdraws without first catching Iran in material breach, the world would blame America, allowing the Iranians to renege on their nuclear commitments without forfeiting most economic and diplomatic gains. Iran might scramble for a bomb to deter America’s newfound hostility.

That would leave two options: accept a nuclear Iran or go to war. Both come with considerable risks.

However, acknowledging this reality does not close off other avenues of confrontation. Much as the United States reached arms control agreements with the Soviet Union while countering Soviet efforts elsewhere, Trump can oppose Iran in other arenas.

Increasing aid to Israel and Saudi Arabia could strengthen Iran’s regional rivals, and Trump could help the Saudis fight the Iran-friendly Houthis in Yemen. The new administration could also work to reduce Iranian influence in Iraq, capitalizing on efforts to take back Mosul from ISIS.

But during the campaign, Trump said the U.S. should work with Russia in Syria, and parroted the Syrian government’s argument that the choice is Assad or terrorists.

Backing Assad would represent a shift to a realpolitik strategy, supporting a dictator as long as he can provide stability, abandoning both George W. Bush’s democracy promotion and Obama’s call that “Assad must go.”

However, Assad is Iran’s main ally in the Middle East, providing a crucial conduit for Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Supporting him would strengthen a group that threatens Israel, and put the United States on the opposite side of Saudi Arabia in what has been the region’s most significant Sunni-Shia power struggle.

If Trump helps Iran achieve its goals in Syria, and if he recognizes that ripping up the Iran deal does nothing positive for the United States, then he won’t look like much of a hawk to Iran’s most fervent opponents.

Analyzing Trump’s Policies on Terrorism

By Professor Grossman

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Jihadist groups, most notably al-Qaeda and ISIS, try to convince Muslims that the United States is waging war on Islam. And the Trump administration might help them.

Terrorist groups rely on a steady stream of recruits. Larger groups are more formidable, and they have to replace suicide bombers and operatives killed or captured by their enemies.

Counterterrorists rely on intelligence. To thwart attacks, and identify and locate terrorist group members, they need timely and accurate information.

If Muslims believe the US is fighting them, they’re more likely to join the jihadists, and less likely to cooperate with the United States or American allies.

Al-Qaeda and ISIS therefore argue that they are defending the world’s Muslims against Western aggression. They point to American and European support for repressive governments in Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They highlight Israeli actions in Lebanon and Palestine, the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the American drone program — anything that might convince Muslims they are facing a new Crusade and have no choice but to take up arms in self-defense.

Terrorists can’t beat us — it’s not like ISIS can invade and occupy Washington DC — but they might be able to bait us into beating ourselves.

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 US Strategy Against Jihadists

President George W. Bush consistently characterized the US campaign against terrorists as a war of everyone v. al Qaeda, not Christians v. Muslims, or the West v. Islam.

The Obama administration continued this strategy, refining rhetoric and policies to undermine jihadist propaganda and recruitment, and to maximize Muslim governments’ and individuals’ willingness to work with the United States.

Both administrations gave orders to capture or kill committed terrorists, sometimes at the risk of collateral damage that would hand enemies a PR victory. However, they built America’s counter-jihadist strategy around separating the few extremists from the vast majority of the world’s Muslims.

The incoming Trump administration appears poised to do the opposite.

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 Team Trump

During the campaign, Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States. That’s exactly the sort of blanket condemnation that Bush and Obama avoided.

As the election approached, Trump backed off the Muslim ban, first shifting to a ban on people from countries with a “proven history of terrorism” (which arguably includes all of them) and then calling for “extreme vetting” (which he never explained).

This change suggests Trump was just playing to a bigoted crowd, and realizes that demonizing 1.6 billion people is not in America’s interests. But his picks thus far for senior White House posts do not inspire confidence.

The President-elect selected Michael Flynn as his National Security Adviser, the most powerful position that does not require Senate confirmation. Since the announcement, Flynn has faced criticism for his comments about Islam.

Here’s President Bush in 2001: The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clericsa fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.

 And here’s Flynn in 2015:

Islam is a political ideology” that “hides behind being a religion.” It’s “a cancer.

 See the difference?

Flynn won plaudits as the head of intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command, playing a crucial role in the effort to kill and capture Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. However, his time since — including his failure as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and subsequent public statements about Islam — indicate that, no matter his tactical effectiveness, he probably will not lead US strategy against jihadist groups in a productive direction.

 In a November 20 interview, Martha Raddatz asked Reince Priebus, Trump’s pick for chief of staff, if Flynn’s statements are “in line with how President-elect Trump views Islam?”

 Priebus responded “well, I think so.” He noted that Flynn’s phrasing could have been better, but “clearly there are some aspects of that faith that are problematic.”

 Priebus clarified that this “certainly isn’t a blanket for all people of that faith,” indicating that he isn’t crazy enough to believe all Muslims are terrorists. But none of his statements show he understands how jihadists benefit when American officials use phrasing like Flynn’s.

A Muslim Registry
During the campaign, Trump proposed requiring all Muslims in America, both citizen and non, to register with the government. This drew comparisons to Nazi Germany registering Jews, and Trump backed away.

However, after the election, Trump policy advisers drafted plans to create a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries. In an interview with Megan Kelly, Trump surrogate Carl Higbie defended this idea, citing the precedent of Japanese internment camps.

Echoing a Trump campaign line, Higbie argued that this is necessary “until we can identify the true threat and where it’s coming from.”

But we have identified the true threat, and we know where it’s coming from.

Analyzing, monitoring, tracking, capturing and killing jihadists has been a top priority for the US intelligence community for the last 15 years. The CIA established the Counterterrorism Center in 1986, including an Islamic Extremism Branch. In 1996, it set up an Issue Station devoted to Osama bin Laden. Jihadist groups, and terrorism in general, have long been a major focus in universities, think tanks, and consultancies.

The idea that we don’t understand the threat or where it’s coming from is ridiculous.

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Torture
During the campaign, Trump also advocated bringing back torture.

The euphemistically named “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed early in the War on Terror are a dark mark on the United States. Even if one sets aside questions of morality, torture undermined American strategy. Stories from Guantanamo Bay and CIA black sites, and viral images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, provided al Qaeda with a powerful recruitment tool.

Experts debate whether tortured prisoners provide accurate intelligence, or, even if they do, whether the information could be acquired with more moral means. But Trump sidestepped this, arguing “even if it doesn’t work, they deserve it.”

As with many other outlandish campaign statements, he later backed off.

However, Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick to run the CIA, defends waterboarding, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence refused to rule it out.

America’s Strategy Under Trump

America’s strategy against jihadist groups under Bush and Obama was far from perfect.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be worse. Much worse.

Requiring Muslims to register and bringing back torture? Jihadists will not believe their luck.

This is, in part, a war of ideas. The President-elect can’t take back what he said during the campaign, but he hasn’t taken office yet.

Marine general James Mattis, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Defense, opposes torture, and will balance Flynn’s influence.

Next, he should nominate a respectable Secretary of State, and start working to undermine jihadist propaganda, rather than feed it.

Retrospective on Forecasting the 2016 Election

by Professor Dion

Wednesday, November the 9th, was not a good day to be a political scientist.

The nation, after all, had been assaulted with months with a literal amount of survey results, margin of error calculations, cross-tabs, turnout models, bootstrap probability estimates, to name just a few of the quantitative tricks of the trade. And this mountain of evidence all pointed toward what could be interpreted as a near certainty that Hillary Clinton would in fact become the first female president in American history.

So when it became clear that Donald J. Trump would become the 45th president, the punditocracy, always looking for a scapegoat, turned its pitchforks and torches to Our Beloved Discipline. One morning commentator mocked quantoids with their pretensions to accuracy. Others pointed to some kind of post-Brexit zeitgeist in which the underclass finally rebelled against the pollmasters. Universally reviled was Nate Silver. Despite dropping the probability of a Clinton victory from 88 percent down to 71.4 on election eve, Silver’s sterling reputation was tarnished beyond repair (excuse the puns). Sic transit gloria mundi. As if all this wasn’t enough, the lowest blow, sharper than a serpent’s tooth: Professor Larry Sabato, in response to a direct question, stating that politics was “not a science” but was instead “an art,” and that we needed to get away from abstract models and back to “the old masters.”

[Just for the record: it doesn’t seem like “art” did all that much better. Sabato’s own “Crystal Ball” blog predicted a Clinton win, just like everyone else. And it isn’t just him. You can easily assembly a youtube highlights list of famous pundits saying the election was over as far back as August.]

Before abandoning political science and turning to something like sociology (I KEED! I KEED!), it might pay to look at how well quantitative work by actual academics (as opposed to plebian survey researchers) performed. They aren’t difficult to find — the journal PS (which is to political science what People is to, well, people) has presented forcasts in its quadrennial election issue for years. For 2016, PS published eight papers, each drawing on different methods, and all providing forecasts of the likely outcome of the vote. All based on replicable methods that had been tested on prior election results, and rely on information available months before the election.

I’ve assembled a list of the predictions and their performance in Table 1. A look at the results leads to a very different assessment of quantitative work than one gets from the media. The errors are all fairly small – especially noteworthy is the prediction by Iowa’s own Michael Lewis-Beck and Charles Tien, which was only off by half a percentage point. Averaging all the predictions, we come up with a predicted forecast of 50.95 percent of the popular vote to Clinton – quite close to the actual result of 50.5.

These are all fairly impressive and accurate forecasts. (Although my favorite, the Median Voter Theorem, predicting a perfect tie in every election, does even better than the average forecast). How then did the pontificators come up with the idea quantitative models failed?

Table 1: 2016 Election Forecasts

Forecast Clinton Percentage, Two-Party Vote Error
Norpoth 48.50%[1] -2.0%
Jerôme and Jerôme-Speziari 50.10% -0.4%
Lockerbie 50.40% -0.1%
Campbell 50.70% 0.2%
Lewis-Beck and Tien 51.00% 0.5%
Erikson and Wlezien 52.00% 1.5%
Graefe, Jones, Armstrong and Cuzán 52.40% 1.9%
Holbrook 52.50% 2.0%
Forecast Average 50.95% 0.4%
ACTUAL RESULT[2] 50.50%

Its very simple. Our models have been aimed primarily at predicting the two-party vote, and as these results show, we do very well at that.  Presidential elections, however, are decided by electoral votes. Now, while I have no experimental evidence, I am convinced that the framing of the electoral vote provides a misleading (or at least different) view of the Clinton-Trump gap than percentages. Let’s test it out. Suppose I asked you which would represent a bigger win for Trump:

Scenario 1: Trump receives 290 electoral votes, while Clinton receives 232 (Michigan still to be decided).

Scenario 2: Trump receives 55.6 percent of the assigned electoral votes (Michigan still to be decided).

[Take your time. I will wait.]

 

 

 

 

If you stated that Scenario 1 was a better outcome for Trump, then you fell into my trap. This is in fact a trick question: 290 electoral votes is 55.6 percent of 522 electoral votes. But a 60 vote difference compared to 240 votes sounds so much bigger.

 

 

  1. Predicted Trump as winner of popular vote.
  2. Calculated from http://cookpolitical.com/story/10174/, Nov 16, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Post-Election Comments

by Professor Hagle

I’ve been asked to provide a few comments on the results of the 2016 elections.  There are, as you can imagine, many questions, issues, and aspects to explore regarding the election and the results.  This is particularly the case given how unusual the campaign was, how disliked the candidates were, and how surprising the results ended up being.  For this post I’ve chosen to touch on a few issues that seemed to be of particular interest.

Before the election I was sometimes asked why Trump seemed to be doing so well in Iowa.  You may know that many polls prior to the election had Trump doing better in Iowa than in many other swing states.  When reporters asked me about this I usually began my answer by noting that Trump lost to Cruz in the Iowa Caucuses because he didn’t have a very good ground game and Cruz did.  As much as that’s important for a general election, or even a primary, it’s critical for the Iowa Caucuses.

Of course, the Iowa Caucuses were before what happened later in terms of some candidates attacking each other while basically ignoring Trump.  Many of the negative aspects of Republican nomination process happened much later in the nomination race.  Although Iowa’s Republican voters were certainly aware of the later negative aspects of the race, it didn’t affect them directly.  That allowed the Republican Party of Iowa and various officeholders (Branstad and Grassley in particular) to get behind Trump more quickly than the party organizations in many other states.  Thus, although Trump’s campaign organization was still behind Clinton’s here in Iowa, the RPI managed to make up much of the gap.  There’s always a trade-off between enthusiasm and organization.  We saw this directly in the Sanders-Clinton contest for the Democrats.  Organization won out in that race, but just barely.  I and many others believed that Clinton still had the edge in organization for the general election in Iowa and elsewhere, but her supporters were less enthusiastic than Trump’s were.

That lack of enthusiasm proved to be a key factor in Clinton’s loss.  Although many were aware of the lower level of enthusiasm for Clinton, I believe it was under appreciated.  There were many Republicans who were not enthusiastic about Trump, but most of these voters “came home” and were willing to vote for Trump, if only as a vote against Clinton.  That didn’t happen to the same extent for Clinton.  Despite the better organization, preliminary results indicate that turnout for Clinton was well below what we saw for Obama in 2012, particularly for certain key groups she needed for victory.

The unfavorable numbers of the two candidates comes into play here.  Both candidates were disliked by a large majority of people.  The dislike for each candidate became a central focus of both campaigns.  Many Republicans were not happy with Trump as the Republican candidate.  Some vowed never to vote for him and the NeverTrump movement began.  Others criticized many of the things he said, but still voted for him because as bad as he was, they believed Clinton was worse.  You didn’t see a similar approach to Clinton for the Democrats.  Very few high level Democrats criticized Clinton for her failings.  Instead, the line was that she was the most qualified candidate ever.  On the email server it was that she made a mistake and apologized.  With the Wikileaks revelations it was the Russians hacked them.  Leaked emails suggested that some of Clinton’s inner circle recognized some of these problems, but there was no public criticism about it.  At some level I think that approach blinded many in the Clinton campaign to what the people were really thinking about her problems.  Put another way, the Clinton campaign may have been believing their own propaganda.

A failure to understand what many (if not most) voters were feeling was also a problem for the media.  We must be careful, of course, when talking about “the media” because there are certainly many outlets with various levels of journalistic experience and expertise, not to mention viewpoints.  Even so, the general feeling on the right was that the media was initially going easy on Trump to allow him to be an embarrassment to Republicans during the primaries.  The expectation was that they would then turn on Trump if he got the nomination, which in the eyes of many actually occurred.  You can certainly argue that the media had more reason to be critical of Trump given his many statements that offended people.  Many will also argue that Clinton came under criticism as well.  Both of those things are true, but some of the leaked emails from Clinton’s team provided evidence for many of the concerns about the media being softer on Clinton and harder on Trump.  Many in the media were more overt than usual about pulling for Clinton to win.  That just made Trump’s criticisms of the media resonate even more, regardless of whether those criticisms were fair.

The polls also proved to be a problem in this election.  For purposes of this post I’ll skip my usual rant about how polls are usually misinterpreted by the media and just hit a few quick points.  First, there were too many polls done by organizations that sometimes did not have the expertise to conduct a good poll.  Each organization uses a different methodology for contacting voters.  At the very least that means one shouldn’t compare different polls.  Looking at averages of several polls is supposed to even out any errors, but that seems a dubious practice as well.

Second, the key to getting an accurate sample for a poll close to the election is to find people who are actually going to vote.  Pollsters have had to make dramatic changes in their methodology to get the samples they need to fill out their demographic categories.  Even so, they have to make informed guesses as to what the actual voting electorate will be demographically so they can properly weight their sample.  If those guesses aren’t correct then the poll won’t be an accurate representation of the electorate.

Third, what seemed to be a particular problem in this election was that many people were reluctant to admit that they were voting for either of the candidates, but especially for Trump.  Some early data suggests this was particularly so for women voters who supported him.  In other words, some women seemed reluctant to tell a pollster that they supported the man who had said all those offensive things to women.  That’s understandable for the women, but it can throw off the poll results.

Although much of the focus on the election has been on the presidential race, the results for the US House and Senate races were also somewhat surprising.  Many thought that Democrats would take control of the Senate.  For the 2016 election Republicans only had a slim majority to begin with and were defending 24 seats to only 10 for the Democrats.  At times during the summer and fall there was even talk about the Democrats taking control of the House as well.  At the very least, the expectation was that Democrats would make large gains and significantly reduce the Republicans’ House majority.  Neither of these things happened.  Democrats only picked up a few seats in the House and Republicans held the majority in the Senate (though they lost two seats).  That means Republicans will have control of the White House and both chambers in Congress.

When a president’s party also controls both chambers in Congress there is a greater opportunity to “get things done.”  We saw this at the start of President Obama’s first term when the Democrats passed Obamacare with no Republican support.  Of course, one difference for the Republicans in 2017 will be that they have a much smaller majority in the Senate than the Democrats had in 2009.  That will make it easier for Senate Democrats to block or hinder appointments or legislation they don’t like.

Speaking of which, an obvious question now will be what items that seemed to be part of Trump’s agenda will he and the Republican Congress tackle first.  One of the things that Trump is likely to do fairly quickly is to roll back some of the things Obama did using executive orders.  That wouldn’t require Congressional approval, but Trump would probably still be wise to consider the political aspects of such actions.

In terms of legislation, dealing with Obamacare would seem to be a very high priority, for both Trump and Congressional Republicans.  Even so, it will not be so simple to just repeal it, let alone replace it.  Even to the extent Obamacare has failed in certain ways, it would be impractical, politically and otherwise, to just repeal it without a new plan ready to go.  Given the complaints about how Obamacare itself was rushed through without enough consideration of the consequences, Republicans will likely be cautious about moving ahead without adequate consideration of an alternative.  If they move too slowly, however, they risk upsetting their base voters.

Immigration was also a priority for Trump.  Despite Trump’s comments about deporting large numbers of people, this is also an area where the political aspects will be complicated.  Most Congressional Republicans would agree that the border needs to be secure and there cannot be blanket amnesty for those immigrants already here illegally, but beyond that it becomes more difficult.  Democrats, particularly those in the Senate, will resist any efforts at immigration reform they don’t like, and many Republicans will balk at mass deportation efforts.  It will be interesting to see if anything actually gets done on this issue.

Given that I study the Supreme Court I have to mention it as well.  Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, might have had a chance at approval if Clinton had won the presidency and the Republicans were worried that she would nominate someone even more liberal.  That Trump won means that Garland has no chance of being approved.  Trump will need to nominate someone fairly quickly.  Of course, he also has to nominate and get approval for many cabinet secretaries and top level positions.  Some of these might be seen as more important than another justice on the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court was seen as an important issue by voters who supported both Clinton and Trump.  We can probably expect Senate Democrats to go along with most of Trump’s nominees to federal agencies, but they will likely resist his nominees to the Supreme Court.  This is no surprise on ideological grounds, as we’ve seen such resistance before.  Now, of course, Senate Democrats may also be willing to resist any Supreme Court nominee just because Republicans held up Obama’s pick of Garland.  That Democrats complained bitterly about the hold up on Garland will not keep them from doing the same to a Trump nominee.  Similarly, Republicans will not hesitate to criticize Democrats for doing it.  Consistency is not a hallmark of political arguments in Washington.

Because Republicans will have a very narrow majority in the Senate, the Democrats can block any Supreme Court nominee by a filibuster.  Put another way, Republicans won’t be able to get the necessary 60 votes for cloture to get to an up or down vote on a nominee.  If that happens, then the Republican majority will likely use the “nuclear option” to remove the 60-vote requirement, just as Democrats previously did for most other nominations.  That means it would take only 51 votes to approve a Supreme Court nominee.

As a final point I’ll note the angst that many Democrats seem to feel regarding the election of Trump.  One silver lining for them may be that Congressional Republicans are more likely to act as a check on Trump, and certainly more so than Congressional Democrats would have on Clinton.  That could create additional problems for Republicans in future elections because now that they control the White House and both chambers of Congress they will be expected to get some of the things done that the people were promised.

 

 

 

fame and fortune in the Twittersphere: Lexi4prez and NadelParis

by Professor Boynton

On the 13th, 15th and 19th of September the person whose tweets were retweeted the most frequently was NadelParis. These are the tweets that were most retweeted, the total number of retweets for all of her retweeted messages, and the number of followers who would have access to those messages via retweeting.

Date Most Retweeted Retweets Reach
September 13 @NadelParis: trump: threat2 our way of life! Glad Madame 5,380 88,873
September 15 @NadelParis: trump/family: ties w. orgs 6,402 203,175
September 19 @NadelParis: IS THIS WHOM U R trump SHAME ON ALL OF YOU 10,062 129,956

NadelParis was able to reach 88,873, 203,175, and 129,956 Twitter users in addition to her followers with her message of opposition to Donald Trump.

Who is NadelParis? She is not an unknown campaign worker. On her Twitter profile page she describes herself as a Recording Artist, Producer, Songwriter, Musician. She is an attractive young woman whose new album she advertises almost as often as she expresses opposition to Trump.

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One supposes she is a political neophyte, but one with strong feelings about this election. If she is a political neophyte how are her tweets retweeted so often? The answer is surely the number of Twitter users who follow her. On the 13th Twitter reported she had 325K followers, and by the end of the month she was up to 337K for an increase of 12K followers in two weeks. The increase may be due to the release of her new album or due to the political messages she was posting to Twitter or both. Whatever the reason for the increase she is in communication with a large number of Twitter users. Some read her criticism of Trump and decided to retweet it so their followers would see it.

Reach to 100K to 200K in addition to her followers is impressive communication of her point of view. What is not so impressive is the number of her followers who retweeted her messages. The percentage of her followers who retweeted her messages were 1.6%, 1.9% and 3.0% — one and a half percent to three percent retweeted her strong statement of opposition to Trump. I particularly like “IS THIS WHOM U R trump SHAME ON ALL OF YOU” which is a very personal challenge.

NadelParis is an example of a person whose fame emanates from her music career. That is surely how she is known. One might call her a celebrity, but a celebrity on a rather small scale. And she has turned that celebrity into voice about the presidential election. There are other more widely known celebrities. Katy Perry is ‘queen’ of Twitter with 93.3 million followers. And she has also used her celebrity to express her point of view as a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

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“TOMORROW, I USE MY BODY AS CLICK BAIT TO HELP CHANGE THE WORLD.” If we take the image seriously she had found a precinct that would let her vote — tomorrow — in September. As the most followed person on Twitter 93.3 million was the audience of this click bait. Of course, roughly one-third are fake followers and quite a few of them are not eligible to vote since they are either too young to vote or live in other countries. But notice the number of retweets. It had been retweeted 6.2K times ten days after the tomorrow. Her tweet was not retweeted more than were NadelParis’. Notwithstanding the revision of the big number it was a big ‘blast’ for Hillary Clinton. But she too was not able to convert her celebrity into the geometric explosion that retweeting produces.

This is a story about geometric explosion. The evening of March 16 the results were in for the two Florida primaries. The Clinton team posted — we won. Simultaneously Lexi4prez posted an animated gif. It was a rabbit vigorously sawing off Florida from the rest of the country and then floating out to sea.

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For her it was the worst possible outcome as Trump won and Bernie Sanders lost. Then a geometric explosion happened. After five hours the Clinton tweet had been retweeted 3.4 thousand times. After the same five hours the lexi4prez tweet had been retweeted 13.4 thousand times. Ms. Clinton had 5.7 million followers which gives a 0.0006% retweet rate. Lexi4prez had 78,000 followers, and 17% of them had retweeted her message. As retweet rates go Lexi4prez was way ahead of the Clinton campaign. The average number of followers in political communication is approximately 500. By this count the Clinton tweet could have been seen by 1.7 million Twitter users. Florida floating out to sea could have been seen by 6.7 million Twitter users. Even if you do some adjustment to the numbers 1.7 million adjusted and 6.7 million adjusted are very large audiences for the two tweets. Geometric explosion starts with a single tweet that is available to all of ones followers, and then can explode as followers receiving the message pass it along to their followers. That gets you to 1.7 million and 6.7 million as the viewing audience, which is the potential explosion built into Twitter communication.

Is the animated gif a fluke? The way to answer that is to count over an extended period of time. Tweets were collected for 34 days in late spring of 2016. At the end of the 34 days Ms Clinton had 5.4 million followers and Lexi4Prez had 85,234 followers The search requested tweets mentioning Clinton or Lexi4Prez every five minutes from the Twitter Search API. There were 2,497,682 tweets mentioning Clinton and only 95,005 tweets mentioning Lexi4Prez. There are far more followers and tweets mentioning Clinton than Lexi4Prez. However, retweeting is equally unbalanced. One percent, 28,882, of the messages mentioning Clinton were retweets. But 61.5%, 58,439, of the messages mentioning Lexi4Prez were retweets. The importance of retweets is they produce the geometric explosion of reach. If the 28,882 tweets mentioning Clinton were seen by an average of 500 people each that would be a reach of 14,441,000. That is in addition the to 5.4 million tweets that were seen by individual followers. For Lexi4Prez if the 50,429 retweets were seen by 500 individuals that would be 25,218,500 views. However, Lexi4Prez’s followers average many more than 500 followers, and the total is 48,924,744. Lexi4Prez’s tweets are seen by 1.4 million individuals a day. No 17 year old could do that in the past. She is TV scale.

Who is this Lexi4prez who can reach a million Twitter users a day? She is a 17 year old young woman living in Florida of latina ethnicity. Her Twitter profile page changes quite regularly. This one makes it pretty clear who she is.

Reflections on Teaching Introduction to American Politics

by Professor Osborn

For many semesters, I have taught Introduction to American Politics for the political science department here at Iowa.  It’s a required class for the political science major – in fact, the only specifically required class for the major.  It’s also meets general education requirements, so I get a variety of students in the class.  I absolutely love teaching Introduction to American Politics, which puzzles a lot of people.  Why would I love teaching such a big class?  In this blog post, I’ll tell you why, and I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about teaching such a big class.  It’s a challenging and rewarding task.

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Over the semesters, the first thing I’ve learned about teaching Intro to American Politics is that the class is an important foundation for the major.  The obvious way in which the class is a foundation is the information I provide.  Upper level classes, like the Presidency, Congress, or Elections and Campaigns, assume that students have a basic understand of the American political system.  I provide those basics.  The basics are especially important as more and more non-American students take classes at Iowa.  For these students, the Intro class can be the first exposure to American history and politics.  But, the information from Intro to American Politics is important in a subtler way.  Many students find a particular topic in the class fascinating; for instance, they might like talking about African American civil rights or nominations to the Supreme Court.  My class only gives them a taste of these topics, but the Political Science and International Relations majors have in-depth upper level classes on most of these topics.  Taking Intro to American Politics helps students figure out what classes to take in the rest of their college career.  They might even discover a love for politics that they never knew existed!

The second thing I’ve learned about teaching such a big class is to keep it simple.  With technology, it’s easy to succumb to the urge to make everything fancy and complicated.  It’s also easy in an intro class to feel like an overwhelming amount of information should be included in the course.  Over time, however, I’ve realized that scaling down and using simple, straightforward information works just as well for the real purpose of the class – teaching students about American politics.  Semi-boring lecture slides work just as well as ones with flashy lettering, provided they have the key words and outline of the day’s lecture.  Interestingly, students who write notes in an notebook with a pen (the old fashioned way!) tend to do well, even without a computer or tablet, so the need for simplicity applies to students as well.

A third takeaway from Intro to American Politics is the need for organization.  With 250 students and four teaching assistants, this class is a constant buzz of emails and questions.  Students, too, must employ at least a bit of organization to do well in the course.  Students can do well in the class by writing down assignment due dates and exam dates early in the semester, keeping up with readings, and attending class.  But as you can see from the picture of my Fall 2016 class, not everyone attends each lecture.  Students are adults who can make their own choices about attendance, but a lack of organization is often compounded by missing many lectures.  The biggest problem I see in the class is students who are lost – missing information, missing due dates, and therefore, missing the general purpose of the class.  I wish I could convince my students to care more about my beloved subject, political science.  But, a lot of students learn to be more organized from the first time they mess up in my class, and that’s an important class.

Finally, a big challenge of teaching Introduction to American Politics comes during an election season – especially this one!  I like for students of all political ideologies – conservative, liberal, and even lack of ideology – to feel comfortable in my class.  My goal is not to convince, but to inform and teach students to think critically.  However, when a candidate makes derogatory comments about racial and ethnic minorities or women, these comments present a challenge, because I do not want students to feel that their identity is unimportant.  Teaching topics like civil liberties and civil rights means that I must foster an inclusive atmosphere in class on all counts.  Every day, this struggle is a challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

Des Moines Internship Program

by Martha Kirby

It’s the angst-producing chicken and egg college dilemma—you need experience to land a job, but you need a job to gain experience.  What do you do?  Among many other answers—research experience, volunteering, student organization leadership experience, part time jobs—getting an internship is an increasingly popular option.  In 2010 the Department of Political Science launched the Des Moines Internship Program (DMIP), providing students the opportunity to live in Des Moines for a full semester or summer while interning in one of many positions in the business, non-profit, and government sectors. Interns in the DMIP gain real-world working experience, make important connections, and build their leadership skills and résumés while working toward the completion of their University of Iowa degree.   In the past five years our students have interned at a number of sites, including the Governor’s Office, the State Attorney General’s Office, U.S. District Court, World Food Prize, private law firms, lobbying firms, and many more.  No matter the site, the DMIP students consistently report that the fulltime internship experience had a positive impact on their professional development and their academic work.  As one DMIP student interning for a presidential campaign wrote, “Being a political science major, everything I’ve learned in my courses so far has come into play in making me better at my job… My political analysis class from sophomore year taught me about coalitions and strategy building, which is vital for the Iowa Caucuses. I would definitely encourage any students…to take this opportunity and help make the change you want to see in the world happen.”

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My favorite DMIP is from the very first semester.  We asked the interns—in that semester all interning in state government positions representing the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—to come to Iowa City during the department’s Alumni Advisory Board meeting to discuss their experiences in Des Moines.  At some point the five interns began a fairly sophisticated policy discussion amongst themselves as the Board members and faculty looked on quietly. The interns finally looked up, and with a flurry of nervous giggles, apologized.  When asked if any of them would have engaged in that discussion prior to their internships, the answer was a resounding, “No.”  When next asked if any of them would have understood the conversation prior to their internship experience, the answer was again, “No.”  Of those five students, two went on to PhD programs with the intent of focusing on state government, both indicating that it was their Des Moines internship experience that brought into focus their interests in the field.

Whether you have a clear career goal and want to gain professional experience toward that goal, or you are not yet certain of your career path, the Des Moines Internship Program can help.

Features of the DMIP include:

  • $1000 stipend for political science and international relations majors with unpaid internships
  • Evening academic course offerings on our new Des Moines campus
  • Up to 6 s.h. elective credit for your internship
  • Assistance with site applications, including resume and cover letter editing

We are now accepting applications for the Spring 2017 Des Moines Internship Program. Interested students may access the application here: https://clas.uiowa.edu/polisci/undergraduate/des-moines-internship-program-dmip

If you are a student interested in the opportunities in Des Moines, either for this coming spring or in a future semester, please schedule an appointment with Martha Kirby martha-kirby@uiowa.edu to learn more.