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Brandon Greenblatt // 21 January 2016 // #Election2016 #GoingGreen

Our last blog post contained an interview with Professor Mark Giordano of Georgetown University and Professor Daniel Horton of Northwestern University.  The two professors kindly discussed their initial reactions to the COP21 climate summit held in Paris this past December.

When asked about the greatest obstacles to combatting climate change in the United States, both professors noted the immense partisan divide between our two major political parties: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  Many in the Republican Party have historically emerged as climate change skeptics, initially arguing that global warming was not occurring and then ultimately acknowledging that any changes to global temperatures are naturally caused.  Democrats, in contrast, tend to accept climate change as a man-induced phenomenon and support policies to increase energy efficiency, protect the environment, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Today, the overwhelming majority scientists agree that global warming is real, it is human-caused, it is happening now, it is a threat to our well-being – but also that it is solvable. 

Still, this partisan divide was evident not only in how individual Americans responded to the COP21 summit, but also in how it was covered by the American news media.  As I followed along with the climate negotiations, I made a few observations about this issue that I’d like to share. 

Overall, and somewhat remarkably when you think about the political climate a few years ago, most Americans and the news media were pretty receptive to the COP21 summit.  Prior to the meetings in Paris, many Americans hoped that COP21 would be an opportunity to radically alter the way we approach climate change.  COP21 was perceived as a time to step up and accept our responsibility – both for past transgressions against the environment and for the duty of improving future sustainability practices.

»COP21 was perceived as a time to step up and accept our responsibility – both for past transgressions against the environment and for the duty of improving future sustainability practices.«

In its initial coverage of the summit, the American news media largely reflected this popular sentiment.  While the reporting remained objective, factually reporting on the summit’s proceedings, the general tone of news reports remained largely hopeful and appreciative.  The Washington Post – a national and nonpartisan news agency – published an article on December 12, 2015 with the headline “196 countries approve historic climate agreement.”  Though subtle, this headline certainly showcases how the news media was undoubtedly impressed with COP21’s outcomes.  The article went on to reflect a sense of appreciation for all those parties involved and expressed optimism regarding the tenets of the agreement. The article stated, “The agreement, adopted after 13 days of intense bargaining in a Paris suburb, puts the world’s nations on a course that could fundamentally change the way energy is produced and consumed, gradually reducing reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner forms of energy.” 

»196 countries approve historic climate agreement.«

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December 12, 2015

Of course, many members of the American media establishment were critical of the proceedings at COP21.  Fox News, a conservative and Republican news agency, published a series of pieces decrying the negotiations in Paris.  From the very beginning of the summit, Fox News commentators and reporters expressed their displeasure.  An article published on December 1, 2015 was headlined, “In Paris, Obama worships at the altar of Europe’s real religion: Climate change.”  The article continued with an equally critical tone, stating that, “For the twenty-first time, diplomats and camp followers are gathering to bemoan the possible future effects of the four percent of Earth’s carbon cycle for which human activity is responsible.” 

 

»In Paris, Obama worships at the altar of Europe's real religion: Climate change.«

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December 1, 2015

Other articles published by Fox News criticized the United States’ involvement in the negotiations, but not for the reasons you would probably expect.  One article began by immediately attacking not the perception of climate change as being caused by humans, but rather that, “car service, hotels, and accommodations for the president [President Obama, a Democrat] and other administration officials to attend climate change talks in Paris are costing taxpayers nearly $2 million,” implying that President Obama’s participation in the conference is too costly for the American taxpayer. 

Conservative news organizations, such as Fox News, were not the only ones to express strong political opinions.  MSNBC, a news service often characterized as left-wing and liberal, was optimistic about the deal reached at COP21.  On December 14, one day after the summit’s conclusion, MSNBC published an article claiming, “Obama’s success at climate summit puts world on a new path.” MSNBC’s article went on to reaffirm that climate change is man-made, stating that, “This [COP21 negotiations] is all very encouraging, but anyone dusting off their hands and hanging a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner is missing the point: there’s an enormous amount of hard work ahead.” 

 
»Obama’s success at climate summit puts world on a new path.«

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December 14, 2015

These radically different responses to COP21, particularly between Fox News and MSNBC, clearly highlight the deep tensions that climate change evokes among American citizens.  In my opinion, it is almost inconceivable that Fox News would ever acknowledge climate change and that MSNBC would criticize a Democratic president such as Barack Obama. 

Of course, nothing illustrates this partisan divide more clearly than the statements of politicians themselves.  On January 12, 2016, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress.  During this annual speech, the President of the United States updates the American people and members of his government on issues facing the country.  Often times, the President outlines his upcoming policies and calls for cooperation between the political parties so that progress can be achieved.  This State of the Union, President Obama’s last such speech, was a little bit different.  Rather than outline policies, President Obama laid out his vision for the future of the United States – a vision that he hopes will extend far beyond his time in office. 

One of the four issues on which President Obama spoke was climate change.  He expressed optimism that many Americans have started to accept the reality of climate change, but he also levied a criticism at those who still resist.  President Obama stated, “Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.” As participants in the Going Green project, I think many of us have acknowledged the reality of climate change and have committed ourselves to pursuing a sustainable lifestyle.  And this post is not meant to praise those who agree, such as MSNBC, or criticize those who disagree, such as Fox News.  What it does show, however, is that although more and more people across the US acknowledge the fact that climate change is happening and that it is an issue that deserves increased political attention, it still continues to polarize political debates in Congress.  Ultimately, the way to move forward on the issue of climate change is to accept that Republicans and Democrats are going to disagree but that, if we want both our planet to survive and political climate to remain intact, we need to engage in these sorts of conversations in a respectful and healthy manner.

»Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.«

President Barack Obama 
January 12, 2016

 


Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.

 

 
 Brandon Greenblatt // 29 January 2016 //  #Election2016 #GoingGreen

Democratic%20Debate.jpgAs the 2016 Presidential Race intensifies in the United States, now is an opportune time to examine the role that the environment and sustainability have played in the election thus far. 

It’s important to recognize that this election cycle has been different from most presidential elections in the past, simply because there have been so many candidates running for office!  Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are currently seeking a nomination from the Democratic Party.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and businessman Donald Trump are all competing for the Republican Party nomination.  With just less than nine months until the general election, that’s certainly a long list of candidates to choose from!

Republican Candidates Onstage at a DebateFrom my perspective as a university student, this immense volume of candidates has had one significant impact on the election cycle thus far.  More so than other presidential elections in recent years, any candidate who considers entry into this race is immediately forced to distinguish him/herself from the rest of the field.  With such a large field of competitors, it is incumbent upon each candidate to prove to the American people why he/she is the absolute best choice for the party’s nomination and, later on, to be president.  A number of candidates have distinguished themselves well: Bernie Sanders touts his commitment to fighting income inequality, while Donald Trump focuses on combatting illegal immigration and reforming the debt crisis, while Chris Christie emphasizes his expertise on homeland security issues.

To a large extent, the political, economic, and social issues of this race have largely been those defined by the candidates’ areas of expertise.  Donald Trump frequently credits himself with sparking the discussion on illegal immigration, stating that it wouldn’t have become a centerpiece of this race unless he had called for serious reform.  Bernie Sanders has galvanized America’s young adults with calls for tax reform and regulation of Wall Street that will better protect those entering the nation’s workforce.  Unlike in previous years, candidates have actually been forced into a thoughtful discussion on issues of poverty and income inequality.  Unfortunately, by my personal perception of media attention devoted to the 2016 election and the public statements that candidates have made, no candidate has demonstrated particular expertise on – or extended engagement with – issues of environmental and energy policy, and therefore sustainability has yet to enter into the conversation. 

 

 

»Unfortunately, by my personal perception of media attention devoted to the 2016 election and the public statements that candidates have made, no candidate has demonstrated particular expertise on – or extended engagement with – issues of environmental and energy policy.«

Sure, the traditional debates have resurfaced, from concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline to a need to establish energy independence as a pivot away from Middle Eastern oil.  Candidates have expressed a general awareness that we need to reduce carbon emissions, develop alternative forms of energy, and create sustainable infrastructure that spurs economic development.  Martin O’Malley has framed the global warming debate as a moral issue and as the biggest concern for young voters, and Hilary Clinton has called for increases in solar energy capacity.  John Kasich and Carly Fiorina have exhibited moderate stances on climate change, acknowledging its anthropogenic nature but simultaneously prioritizing economic concerns over an expensive energy transition.  Ted Cruz, in contrast, has accused scientists and politicians of distorting scientific evidence and falsely inventing the concept of climate change.  You can read a brief summary of each candidate’s position on climate change here.

 

»Candidates have expressed a general awareness that we need to reduce carbon emissions, develop alternative forms of energy, and create sustainable infrastructure that spurs economic development.«

For the most part, however, climate change has not been a significant focus of this year’s presidential race.  With the exception of COP21, which sparked interest in international climate change negotiations and the United States’ role as a global power, many of this year’s news events have prompted candidates to focus on domestic issues.  Recent crises, such as the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California and a spike in gun violence, have caused the American electorate, presidential candidates, and the news media to focus more on topics such as immigration, gun control, and homeland security.  While those concerns are absolutely valid and an incredibly important part of public discourse, by my estimation this year’s presidential race has focused too little on climate change.  

Within the next few weeks, Americans will begin to cast their ballots in a series of primary elections that will help to narrow down the Democratic and Republican fields.  The Iowa Caucus will occur on Monday, February 1st while the New Hampshire primary elections are slated for Tuesday, February 9th.  Voters will use these primaries to solidify their preferences for the November presidential election, but I also think that they present a fantastic opportunity for voters to start voicing this issues that really matter to them.  If voters demand that we make environmental awareness and sustainability a centerpiece of this upcoming election, candidates will be forced to outline more comprehensive policy plans.  Voters can then develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the candidates available for election, and then they can truly make sustainability an issue of focus for the next presidential administration.  Only with a greater public impetus to start the conversation can we truly hope to go green.

 


Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.

 

 

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We'd like to give a shout-out to our colleagues at the American Studies Blog who featured this story on August 31, 2016. We repost Bobbie Kirkhart's text with permission by the author and blog editors.

 

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee 

The political parties spend countless hours planning their conventions. This is, after all, four nights of free advertising and their first chance to introduce their candidates to the public, who haven't been paying attention through the primary elections. Everybody works for a great start. It almost never happens. This year was no exception. Interestingly, you could say that it was the same woman who saved both conventions.

Both parties had to deal with large factions who couldn't count. For the Republicans, it was the "Never Trump" movement. Though Trump had won the primary vote decisively, and most delegates were pledged to him by party rules, some thought they could talk sense into these people. The effort was hampered by the fact that there was no alternative, as all the possibilities were more unpopular than Trump. "Never Trump" made motions and noise, and it seemed they would leave a sour note on the entire convention. Yet in the evening, the mood became much more positive with Melania Trump's excellent speech. All seemed to be well.

»Both parties had to deal with large factions who couldn't count.«

No one even commented that Kat Gates-Skipper, who had been scheduled, didn't speak. She was the first woman Marine in combat operations, and the committee was happy to have her until they found out that the Republican platform is against women serving in combat. There is an unwritten rule that you can't ignore the party platform until the convention is over.

The Democrats' problem with the people who can't count was much worse. After months of telling his followers that the election was rigged, primary contender Bernie Sanders was surprised that many of his followers believed him, even after Bernie endorsed Hillary. It didn't help that on the day the convention started, WikiLeaks released hacked e-mails that proved it was true, sort of. The Democratic National Committee, which is supposed to be an honest broker in the primaries, favored Hillary. The committee's bias was more talk than action, but it was clearly unethical, and from that day until the election, there are Bernie or Bust people who loudly proclaim that Hillary is a crook. LOUDLY.

After the first night, the Republicans limped along – no huge gaffs, no real triumphs. They suffered from the absence of many Republicans who had been alienated during the primaries and from the presence of one – Senator Ted Cruz, who spoke, urging people to vote their conscience and pointedly not endorsing Trump.

The Democratic show came together – with the exception of the Bernie or Bust people – after a parade of excellent speakers in the first evening program. The consensus was the best; most effective was Michelle Obama. This was the second convention first-night she had brought together, as some smart aleck with a computer had let it out that Melania Trump's speech included lines plagiarized from Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic convention speech.

First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC 2016

First lady Michelle Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., tells the audience, 'Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn't great.' (Photo credit: Ali Shaker/VOA)

The hacked e-mails on the Democratic National Committee continued to be a problem.The Dems pointed out that this information was a result of Russian hacking, trying to make Russian interference in our elections the story. They were unable to, and it was a distraction to their convention until Donald Trump came to the rescue Wednesday morning by asking the Russians to release any hacked material they had on Hillary's missing e-mails. That put the issue right where the Dems wanted it: all about the Russians and their apparent relationship with Trump.

»The conventions went along parallel lines in opposite spheres: the Republican about what's wrong with America, the Democratic about what's right with America.«

The conventions went along parallel lines in opposite spheres: the Republican about what's wrong with America, the Democratic about what's right with America. Each side paraded parents who had lost children, some of whom had distinctly partisan messages. Hillary was smart enough not to fight with bereaved parents, but The Donald, as we used to call him with fondness, took on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son died a hero in the Iraq war. Kahn had asserted that Trump had "sacrificed nothing." Most infamous of Trump's responses was his defense that he had sacrificed because he had worked very hard and become successful. If historians someday chronicle Trump's loss (as now seems likely), the disaffection of so many Republicans, and the media's open criticism, they will likely cite his decision to take on the Khans as the decisive moment – although there is no shortage of plausible explanations.

Both parties paraded celebrities who had no real connection with politics. The Republicans hosted Willie Robertson, Scott Baio, Antonio Sabato, Dana White, Natalie Gulbis, Kimberlin Brown, and Brock Mealor. If you don't recognize these names, you are not alone. The Dems' list included Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, Lena Dunham, Elizabeth Banks, Lee Daniels, America Ferrera, Bradley Cooper, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sigourney Weaver, Angela Bassett, Katy Perry, and Paul Simon. Some stars were at the convention to protest on behalf of Bernie, including Susan Sarandon and Rosario Dawson.

Donald Trump at the RNC 2016

Trump promised to bring sweeping political change, to create wealth, and to make America safe again in a speech that excited delegates on the fourth and final day of the convention. (Photo credit: Ali Shaker/VOA)

While the Republicans spoke gloom and doom, Barack Obama quoted Ronald Reagan's assertion that "It's morning in America." At least one pundit called the Republican event "gothic" while several cited the optimistic patriotism the Democrats touted as "Republican."

The important contrast came on the last night, when the candidates gave their acceptance speeches. Each was introduced by their daughter, The Donald by Ivanka Trump and Hillary by Chelsea. (The country doesn't know if she changed her last name when she married. The rest of us will always call her Chelsea Clinton.)

»Trump's aides were thrilled with his performance because he stuck to the script, which is difficult for him. Hillary always sticks to the script. Her aides would be happy if she went off-script once in a while.«

Trump warned that we are at a "moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life."

He informed us that we think our economy is good because of "the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news and your morning newspaper."

He has "seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders."

He reassured us all as he told us, "I alone can fix it ... . I am your voice ... . I'm with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you."

His aides were thrilled with his performance because he stuck to the script, which is difficult for him.

Hillary Clinton at the DNC 2016

Hillary Clinton made history at the Democratic National Convention by becoming the first female nominee of a major political party in the U.S. for the Presidency. (Photo credit: Disney/ABC Television Group)

Hillary always sticks to the script. Her aides would be happy if she went off-script once in a while. As the first woman ever nominated for President by a major party, she had two distinct advantages: Her speech was viewed as history making, and she was fortunate enough to go second.

In a not-veiled reference to Trump, she warned of "powerful forces" that are trying to "pull us apart," before she emphasized a theme of the convention, "Stronger Together." She cited history and tradition when stating: "Our country's motto is e pluribus Unum, out of many, we are one. Will we stay true to that motto?"

Pointing out the contrast to the Republicans, she declared, "Americans don't say: 'I alone can fix it.' We say: 'We'll fix it together.'"

She reminded us of the history of the moment, of her strong femininity and feminism: "Standing here as my mother's daughter, and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between."

It would have been a poetic ending, but she continued to tell us what was wrong with Trump. Judging by the opinion polls, most Americans already knew.

Going into the conventions, Trump was slightly behind. After the Republican convention, he was three points ahead; after the Democratic convention, Hillary was ten points ahead.

Another interesting statistic: For the first time in history, more people (50%) were less likely to vote for the nominee after the Republican convention than were more likely. If these numbers don't seem to add up, don't worry about it. Nothing else does, either.

 


Bobbie Kirkhart is vice president of the Atheist Alliance of America and serves on the board of Camp Quest, Inc., a summer camp for children of freethinking families. She is a past president of the Atheist Alliance International as well as a frequent contributor to U.S. freethought publications.
 
#Election2016
 
 

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The Teach About US Blogger Team: Liz Subrin, Janina Schmidt, Brandon Greenblatt, Tobias Luthe, Edgar Barrios, Emily Young; not pictured: Felix Wortmann.

All of us here at Teach About Us are very excited to resume work on this excellent project! We will begin to post content for the Election 2016 blog later this week, but, in the meantime, take a few minutes and get to know our new team of interns. They come from very diverse backgrounds, and we hope you'll enjoy learning from them over the next few months!

Joining the project this year are...

 

Liz Subrin (Butler University)Liz%20Subrin.png

Liz Subrin attends Butler University in Indiana and is studying Chemistry and Education. Liz is especially passionate about science and sharing her interests with other curious students, so she's very excited to work on this project!

 

 

Edgar Barrios (Florida State University)

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Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics (e.g. close Senate races) in an important swing state, among other things.

 

 

Emily Young (University of Michigan)

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Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.

 

 

Tobias Luthe (Freie Universität Berlin/University of Minnesota)

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Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John F. Kennedy Institute of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

 

Felix Wortmann

Felix Wortmann is a high school student from Berlin and currently as an exchange student in Michigan exploring high school life there. Felix participated in Going Green together with his school class (and won an award). He will provide the "one step removed" perspective on the elections.

 

Also joining the Teach About Us team is Janina Schmidt, a graduate student in Germany. Janina will be collecting questions from Teach About Us participants and posting answers from a panel of experts assembled by Teach About Us. You can read more about Janina below!

 

 

Janina Schmidt (Leuphana University)

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Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Elections Project 2016.

 

Finally, Brandon Greenblatt, one of our Going Green interns from last year, will be returning to the project. You can read more about Brandon below!

 

 

Brandon Greenblatt (Georgetown University)

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Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Brandon is passionate about environmental and political issues and is excited to be working with Teach About Us again!

 

We can't wait for another great year of the Teach About Us project with you all. Stay tuned for more content to be posted on this blog!

 


Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.
#Election2016 #GoingGreen

 

 

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Our team of U.S. election experts: Goldfield, Thoet, McCuan, Johnson, Stavroudis, Riley, Sickinger, Garrett.

Have you been wondering recently what demographic will decide the election (hint: keep an eye on single women voters in swing state suburbs on Election Day), what the 2016 trends in political cartoons are, or how social media have become such an important aspect of political campaigning? Then look no farther, because Teach About US is featuring a distinguished team of experts on the 2016 election – and they are ready to answer your questions!

»Do you or your class have a question that’s too tricky for Google or too personal for Wikipedia?«

All of our experts happily agreed to get in touch with you, our project participants, and answer your questions on this upcoming election. Do you or your class have a question that’s too tricky for Google or too personal for Wikipedia? Then look up our experts in the Virtual Town Hall and post your questions directly under the profile of your expert of choice. The Teach About US team will bundle your questions and forward them to our experts. Their answers will be posted here on our blog.

And here they are…

  

Amanda ThoetAmanda Thoet graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in May 2015 where she studied English, German and Communication Arts and Sciences. After working in the Public Affairs sector as an intern at the U.S Embassy in Berlin, she will start a Master’s program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where she will be concentrating in Diplomatic Studies this fall. Amanda will serve as an expert about the state of Pennsylvania and presidential elections in general. Read more about Amanda Thoet here.

  

As a U.S. native Christianna Stavroudis  received a B.A. in Applied Linguistics from the Christianna StavroudisUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County and an M.Sc. in Clinical Linguistics from the University of Groningen / University of Eastern Finland / University of Potsdam. She teaches a variety of courses at Bonn University’s English and American Studies Department and frequently lectures in "Green Ink: German and American Political Cartoons on the Environment." Therefore, her special expertise rests in political cartoons on the election in Germany and the U.S., Maryland, and Texas. More information about Ms. Stavroudis will be provided here.

  

Christina SickingerChristina Sickinger is pursuing majors in Economics and German Studies and a certificate in International Relations. This summer, she interned in Florida with Congresswoman Gwen Graham as well as with her county government, and she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about both federal and local government.  She will serve as an expert on the state of Florida. Read more in her profile here.

  

Christer GarrettAs a Professor for American History and Culture, Professor Crister Garrett is currently working on a research project exploring the politics of transatlantic environmental governance. His special expertise focuses on U.S. politics and society in general, understanding cultural difference in an international context, and electoral affairs in California and Michigan. Click here for more information about Professor Garrett.

  

David GoldfieldDavid Goldfield, PhD, is a native of Memphis, grew up in Brooklyn and attended the University of Maryland. He is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is the author/editor of numerous books and textbooks, serves as Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, and is former President of the Southern Historical Association. Check his profile here.

  

Dr. David McCuanDr. David McCuan is a Professor of American Politics, International Relations, and Public Administration at Sonoma State University. His expertise rests in two broad areas – American politics and International Relations. He does research in two areas – state and local elections; and the study of terrorism. His teaching responsibilities include courses in both international and national politics, international security and terrorism, state and local politics, campaigns and elections, and political behavior. Read more about Dr. David McCuan here.

  

Dr. Jason JohnsonDr. Jason Johnson is Associate Professor of Political Science and Scholar in Residence at Hiram College in Northeast Ohio. He is the author the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell, which has been featured in Campaigns and Elections magazine and on National Public Radio. Dr. Johnson frequently appears on U.S. television and radio as a political analyst as well as public speaker, offering his expertise on political campaigning, social and digital media. For information about Dr. Johnson click here.

  

Matt RileyLast but not least, Matt Riley currently studies Public Policy, German and Policy Journalism at Duke University in North Carolina. At Duke, Matt writes as a journalist and investigative reporter at The Chronicle, the student paper, and has covered political stories ranging from Virginia congressional campaigns, North Carolina state politics, and a profile of lead U.S. negotiator in the Iran nuclear negotiations. Thus, his expertise is the presidential election with the focus on the U.S. states Virginia and North Carolina. Check his profile here.

   

Again, we appreciate the willingness of our 8 experts to work with us in this project and answer all of your questions about the presidential election system.

AND now it’s your turn… Please don’t hesitate to address any of the U.S. election experts and post your questions directly in the database. They will be forwarded to the experts and we will post their answers in the blog.

So stay tuned and grasp at the unique chance of getting your questions answered by U.S. election experts. 

  


Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Elections Project 2016.
#Election2016 #Experts

 

 

Minnesota State Fair, Trump/Pence boothAfter the first four weeks in my new hometown of Minneapolis, where I will spent the upcoming year as an exchange student at the University of Minnesota, I can assure everyone that people here are already focused on the upcoming elections. On November 8, 2016, they will not only decide about the new president but also their congressmen and women in the House of Representatives.

Minnesota differs from other U.S. states. From September 23 on, Minnesotans are already allowed to cast an early vote which gives more people the chance to participate in the upcoming elections. Unlike in Germany, Election Day is not on a Sunday, but always on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. As a consequence, a lot of people might not have the time to go to the polls because they have to work. Minnesota’s early voting system instead gives people the chance to vote whenever it is convenient to them. So they can avoid the often long waiting lines at the polling stations on Election Day.

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Another difference between Minnesota and other U.S. states is the fact that Minnesotans can register for voting on Election Day. In contrast to Germany, U.S. citizens are not automatically registered to vote and have to do that at least 30 days prior to the election. Otherwise they are not eligible to cast their vote. A political science professor of mine regards this more flexible regulation as a decisive factor why the voter turnout in Minnesota is always among the nation’s highest. This can also be seen in the actual numbers. During the last Presidential Election in 2012, the turnout in Minnesota was 76.42% compared to just 54.87% on average in the entire country.

Americans constantly talk about the upcoming elections. Even before my plane touched American soil, I had a first interesting conversation with my seat neighbor, a professor from northern Minnesota. For hours we spoke about the elections, the candidates and the topics which are important to Minnesotans, especially for those living in the rural areas in the North and North-East. In these counties many people are very concerned about job security. They often work for the strong mining industry (Minnesota is the largest producer of iron ore and taconite in the U.S.) and fear that cheaper foreign imports and possible new environmental protection laws could endanger their workplace. According to my seat neighbor, such a climate of anxiety might influence some former Democrats to support the Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump and his proposed protectionist policy for the American economy. Yet, Minnesota can still be regarded as one of “bluest” states in America since Minnesotans voted for the Democrats during the past ten presidential elections. They did so even in 1984 when Minnesota was the only state (except the District of Columbia), which voted for the Democrat Walter Mondale instead of the Republican President Ronald Reagan.

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Booth of the DFL (Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) on the Minnesota State Fair 2016 (photo credit: Tobias Luthe)

Both major parties have started their campaigns here in Minnesota. On the Minnesota State Fair, for example, which is one of the biggest agricultural fairs in the entire country, Republicans as well Democrats had their own booths where they informed people about their party’s and candidate’s goals. Apart from receiving flyers and first-hand information, visitors were also able to purchase merchandise of the candidates like Donald Trump’s famous “Make America Great Again” cap or Hillary Clinton T-Shirts. In the US the candidates rely on the revenues from these merchandise sales to a certain degree in order to finance their campaigns. This is definitely a point where the U.S. differs from Germany.

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Booth of the Republican Party of Minnesota at the Minnesota State Fair 2016 (photo credit: Tobias Luthe)

All in all my first weeks have definitely been dominated by politics. It is interesting to see that not only the media but also ordinary people already discuss the presidential election in November. Without hesitating they often claim that this might be one of the most interesting and important elections in U.S. history. Therefore, I am really looking forward to observing how Americans, especially my fellow students on campus here in Minneapolis, will perceive the further development of the different election campaigns.

 
Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
#Election2016

 

 

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Yells of “Do you like science, even a little bit? Do you love to dance? Does translation interest you?” were echoed across the diag (or the center) of the University of Michigan’s (U of M) campus this past week. The event Festifall introduced various student organizations to new and returning students. This year’s Festifall saw the return and arrival of many of the 1300 organizations active on campus. Involvement in organizations is encouraged by staff and students alike as the university strives to develop leaders and active citizens. Students who have dedicated many hours of their time to their cause of choice are reaching out to new students so that their legacy may continue even as they become alumni.

Photo caption: University of Michigan student supporting Gretchen Driskell (D), member of the Michigan House of Representatives representing the 52nd District (photo credit: Emily Young)

As many university campuses in the United States do, U of M sponsors, hosts, and provides for a safe and open political dialogue. The First Amendment is upheld and publicity covers the surfaces of major buildings, bulletin boards, and surfaces spacious enough to be plastered with different thoughts and ideas.

   Student Democrats with their inspirational cardboard cutout

University of Michigan student assisting in voter registration and informing young voters about their civic rights at this year's Festifall (photo credit: Emily Young)

One of the most common questions raised at Festifall was “Are you registered to vote?” or “Would you like to register to vote?” Students assisting in voter registration informed prospective voters about their civic rights and passed out pamphlets from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. The pamphlets contained information concerning ages for voting, registration, the photo ID policy and how to avoid problems when entering the polls this upcoming Election Day, November 8th.  An entire section of the space was dedicated to various political entities that deal with issues and include organizations such as Students For Life or Students for Choice. These particular organizations deal with the issue of whether abortion should or should not be legal. College Republicans, College Democrats, and Michigan Political Union (an organization dedicated to bringing about discussion between students of all political views and affiliations) were also all present boasting a slew of events to get in gear for the upcoming election.

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Poster and campaign announcement by the Green Party on the U of M campus (photo: credit: Emily Young)

What I found to be relevant to the Ann Arbor student body however, was the presence of members of a campaign under the heading Students for Gretchento supportGretchen Driskell who is running for congress.  She was even scheduled to attend the upcoming Student Democratic meeting, that would also host congresswoman Debbie Dingell, the commissioner for Ann Arbor Yousef Rabhi (who is running for state representation of Michigan), and candidate Gretchen Driskell’s campaign manager Keenan Pontoni.

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At the Student Democratic mass meeting held on Sunday September 11th, current congresswoman Debbie Dingell,the representative of the 12th district in Michigan, spoke to the college democrats about the upcoming election. She disclosed how to be present on campus and hold conversations not only about the Presidential race, but all of the races that will be present on the ballot in November that affect communities on a federal, state and local level. Congresswoman Dingell proclaimed the election as “the most important of your lifetime” for millennials. She pronounced that individuals should vote first as Americans, second as party members. More specifically she addressed the rights endowed to Americans by the U.S. Constitution such as Freedom of Speech and Religion. Dingell endeared herself to the students by discussing education and her desire to see students leaving college debt-free by 2021 (by means of Hillary Clinton’s plan for education.

»This is going to be the most important election of your lifetime.«
Debbie Dingell, Representative of the 12th district in Michigan

According to Congresswoman Dingell, the generations of students voting this year are at ‘ground 0’ (the center of change) and especially in the state of Michigan, one of the most competitive states, she urged students to mobilize and ensure the turnover of the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats.  In order for the House of Representatives to be a democratic majority for Michigan, six of the ten seats that are currently Republican would need to be won by Democrats in the upcoming election. For the entire House of Representatives to become a Democratic majority, thirty seats must turn blue nationwide come November.  As a battleground state, the elections are very competitive in the state of Michigan. The presence of young voters in the upcoming election will undoubtedly have an effect, as they make up twenty-five percent of the country and ‘100% of our future’ according to Dingell.

»Young voters make up twenty-five percent of the country and 100% of our future.«
Debbie Dingell, Representative of the 12th district in Michigan

Just as the dozens of political organizations set up on the diag this past Friday, so will Tim Kaine and student volunteers do again this upcoming week in an effort to encourage students not only to ‘go blue’ but to ‘vote blue.’ We will know by November 9 if they achieved their goal to encourage young voters to go to the polls!

 


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and  has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.
#Election2016

 

 

Dr. Jason Johnson

Earlier this year, our expert on political campaigning and social media, Dr. Jason Johnson, travelled to Germany for a speaker tour that included discussions with high school students and teachers in Hamburg and Berlin. We were lucky to ask him about his take on the evolving election campaign.

One thing is already clear: The presidential election 2016 will be of historical significance. Not only did the campaign reveal a split between some party representatives and Trump supporters within the Republican party, but also Hillary Clinton had a hard time to overcome Bernie Sanders‘ criticism of the electoral system and his grassroots campaign.

Jason Johnson summarized the presidential election campaign for us like this:

 

Social media have played a major role throughout the campaign thus far. But this is in itself is not a novelty in 2016.  Digital Campaigning has been an important part of the U.S. elections since 1996. It was in the mid and late 1990s that candidates running for the highest political office in the United States began integrating campaign websites into their campaigns. Today social media are a major component of those campaigns and their success. Not surprisingly, Barack Obama‘s first presidential bid in 2008 famously relied on Facebook, his re-election campaign made heavy use of Twitter. In this year’s election, these networks count as important instruments to mobilize voters and volunteers on both sides, the Democrats and the Republicans. And other social networks like Snapchat are about to follow with growing importance.

U.S. political analyst Jason Johnson told us more about the evolving role of social media for the November election:  

 

Jason Johnson is one of our experts on U.S. elections and politics. Until the November elections, we will be forwarding student questions to our experts and post their answers in this blog. To learn more about this, visit the Virtual Town Hall in the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2016.  


Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Elections Project 2016.
#Election2016 #Experts

 

 

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In November, Americans will elect their new President, but did you know that there is a lot more at stake on Election Day? On that same day voters will also elect nearly half members to their national legislation -- the House of Representatives and the Senate, also known as Congress. These two houses are very important in the United States, as they represent one of the three branches that form the American Government. Both work to create and pass legislation that potentially becomes policy. American political parties value what party has the majority, or near majority, in Congress just as much as they do with what party the President is. If, say, one political party has a grand majority in Congress, they can formulate the policies the U.S. would pursue and steer the U.S. in a certain direction in terms of their party objectives. So the election of these individuals play a major role in our electoral system. 

On Election Day Americans don’t just decide about who is going to be their next President. In the U.S. presidential elections coincide with congressional elections for members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Here’s a cheat sheet for this election.

The Senate is comprised of 100 members -- two Senators from every state. The House of Representatives is comprised of 435 members -- the number from each state varies on the state’s population. While both houses are equal in power, most citizens pay attention to the Senate races. The body of the Senate is smaller, and some see these elections as more important and aim to have the Senator who aligns with their party placed in Congress. Tallahassee_Edgar.pngThe Senate races are also larger in scale, as the whole state votes for them (not just the smaller congressional districts) and are heavily contested. Specifically in my state of Florida our Senate race is boiling up as recent polls (link at the bottom) predict the race will be an extremely close and tight one. For this election cycle there is only one seat up for contest, the seat of current Senator Marco Rubio (Republican). The election for the other seat, held by Senator Bill Nelson (Democrat), will be fought for during the next election cycle in 2018 -- often referred to as the midterm elections because they take place during the middle of the sitting President's term.

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Senator Rubio campaigning (photo credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

But as for this election we have two individuals vying for this the office -- incumbent Senator Marco Rubio (Republican) and current U.S. House Representative Patrick Murphy (Democrat). Thus far throughout the campaign we have had a lot of mudslinging between the candidates -- an American term for using insults or accusations with the purpose of damaging the reputation of the other opponent. Some political scientists suggest that it might cause voters to turn to a third party candidate for the seat.

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U.S. Representative Murphy campaigning. (photo credit: FXTribune)

While current Senator Rubio is slightly leading in the polls, he has faced a lot of criticism from his opponent and his own party. In 2015, Senator Rubio threw in his name for the 2016 presidential race, and while campaigning he missed 125 of Senate votes on pending legislation -- which was about 41% of the total votes -- causing him to have the worst voting record in the Senate.  He also lost a bit of his stronghold when he endorsed Donald Trump for President, receiving disconcertion from his party and constituents.

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Senator Rubio with student supporters at Florida State University (photo credit: Taylor Ney)

However, the record of Representative Murphy also invokes criticism. Murphy was formerly a Republican, donating to Republican candidates -- including Mitt Romney’s campaign for President in 2012. However, he switched to the Democratic Party four months before running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Murphy is also accused of “climbing the ladder” too quickly, i.e. for being a U.S. Representative and three years later seeking and running for a higher office. Some see him as power hungry and not paying attention to the needs of his constituents. Both candidates have sought to visit college campuses across the state, such as Florida State University (my university), University of Florida (Rubio’s former university), and the University of Miami (Murphy’s former university).  Both candidates have received endorsements from high profile individuals in their respective parties, including President Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney. As the election nears the Rubio campaign has called for six different debates, yet both sides have so far only agreed to one on October 26th at a South Florida College.

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U.S. Representative Murphy with students at Florida International University (photo credit: Taylor Ney)

As of right now no polling company or political science organization can predict who might acquire the seat. Most polls are considering it a “toss-up”, meaning it could go either way. But a little background knowledge of the seat itself: Since 2005, the seat has gone to a Republican. And the state of Florida itself usually leans Republican in a majority of its elected offices. For example, Florida has had a Republican governor since 1999. But the state has also voted for President Obama in the last two presidential elections. So while the race continually heats up, our greatest friend and indicator will be the polls; perhaps giving us slight insight to the election results. The most recent polls indicated to following: Senator Rubio 50 and Representative Murphy 43 (Rubio +7), and the other: Senator Rubio 40 and Representative Murphy 37 (Rubio +3). This page collects several polls and charts from a number of sources. There are errors in these polls which is why they differ and cannot be blindly trusted. But they are a good general indicator.

 


Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics (e.g. close Senate races) in an important swing state, among other things.
#Election2016

 

 

800px-EnvelopeFromBushtoObama.jpgWith the November 8th presidential election rapidly approaching, I’ve recently found myself looking towards the future. Caught up in a 24/7 news cycle and the constant dialogue between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (as well as Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party), I’ve been thinking more about the next presidential administration than the Obama-era policies of today.

Photo: Envelope containing message from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, Jan. 20, 2009, sitting on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office at the White House, effectively ending the Presidential transition. (Photo credit: The White House)

This idea, that an election cycle captivates the public’s attention and directs it away from the present and towards the future, recently became clear to me when I attended an event on Georgetown University’s campus. At Georgetown, we have a program in the graduate school of public policy called the Institute of Politics and Public Service, which works primarily to introduce all Georgetown students to political activities and personas at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute is notable for its speaker series and political fellows, who work with students to foster a spirit of political engagement on campus.

DC_Brandon_small.pngThis year, the Institute is hosting a series called The Exit Interview. The series is designed as a retrospective on the Obama administration, in which six prominent Cabinet and advisory officials will come to campus and share their thoughts on the Obama administration and American policies moving forward.

Last week, for the national security and foreign policy portion of the series, Susan Rice addressed a crowd of Georgetown students and faculty. Susan Rice currently serves as President Obama’s National Security Advisor and was the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the early years of the Obama administration. Ambassador Rice spoke about her professional path into the Obama administration, her accomplishments as UN Ambassador and National Security Advisor, her most frustrating moments in office, and her policy ideas for the future.

Susan Rice spoke at Georgetown on September 14.

Susan Rice is currently serving as the 24th U.S. National Security Advisor. She was formerly the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. (Photo credit: U.S. State Department)

The content of Ambassador Rice’s address was interesting, but what struck me most was her tone; she framed the upcoming presidential election as a time of monumental transition. This election, Rice stated, provides the next President of the United States with the remarkable opportunity to both capitalize on the Obama administration’s progress and learn from its mistakes, and hopefully charter an even better path forward.

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President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. (Photo credit: The White House)

Which policies the next President should adopt is a matter of opinion, but the sentiment of Ambassador Rice’s statement rings true, I believe. Regardless of whether an election is at the local, state, or national level, political contests should be viewed neither as an opportunity to completely uphold the status quo nor as a chance to disregard the previous administration entirely, but rather as a time for critical reflection and collaborative learning. Putting partisan politics aside, consecutive administrations might do well to communicate with one another – discussing policy initiatives and leadership strategies – such that the government’s future is even brighter for their citizens. This strategy would be most visible at the national level, where the upcoming presidential election dominates our news, but it would certainly be beneficial at all levels of government.

»Putting partisan politics aside, consecutive administrations might do well to communicate with one another

The Exit Interview series, which will be hosted by the Georgetown University Institute for Politics and Public Service over the next few months, will offer me an opportunity to engage in such reflection. I would encourage everyone to take a step back as well and to think of these elections in the abstract: How can the next US President move forward in a positive way, informed not only by his/her own views, but also by the legacies and guidance of previous administrations?

 


Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.
#Election2016

 

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