Tag Archives: 2012 Elections

Will Climate Change Denial Inherit the Wind?

By Josh Rosenau

In 2012, 87 years after its first famous Monkey Law, Tennessee passed a law attacking evolution, labeling that foundation of modern biology “controversial” and purporting to grant public school teachers and students “academic freedom” to challenge it in class. Unlike 1925’s Butler Act, 2012’s Monkey Law broadened its scope beyond evolution, also sweeping in the similarly scientifically uncontroversial but socially contentious topic of climate change. Continue reading


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What’s next for the Tea Party? Understanding movement success and failure

Social movement scholars have often struggled with operationalizing movement success and/or failure, and rightfully so.   What may be considered a failure to scholars may be perceived as success to activists. In addition, movements are not monoliths and therefore success for some activists or for some groups, may not be relevant to other aspects of a movement. Finally, talking about success and failure also rests on the assumption that we know about the intentions of movement actors – that there are clearly stated and known objectives and that the decisions actors make are in reference to achieving those goals and objectives. Often, we can only speculate about motivations and intent; presumably success can also come about unintentionally. I have written about how the Occupy movement has shifted the spotlight to scholars’ understanding of movement outcomes, but I suggest that the Tea Party also requires us to think about how we define movement success and failure. Continue reading

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A Social Movement President?


President Obama speaks to supporters on election night, 2012. (Photo Credit: Christopher Dilts for Obama for America)

In 2008, the process that led to Barack Obama’s election was often described as more than a campaign. Many pundits saw it as a movement (here’s a good example) as did many of the folks who participated in it (and, apparently, as did their record labels; see the subtitle). Then what? As Marshall Ganz has argued, President Obama lost his “transformational” orientation–and demobilized much of the organizational structure that had built up the movement, got out the votes, and engaged a new set of political participants. The result was a series of bruising policy battles, midterm election losses for Democrats, and an enlivened conservative movement in place of what was supposed to be the continued flowering of new progressive policies carried through by a wave of continued grassroots organizing. Continue reading


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The Medium or the Message: Fox News has a Crossroads Moment

One of the most amazing events of election night was likely missed by many viewers if they were not tuned in to Fox News Channel at just the right time. In the video below Fox News political analyst, former Bush senior adviser, and the man behind the Super PAC Crossroads GPS, argues with network’s decision to call Ohio for the incumbent.

Karl Rove on Fox News Election Night

What appears to happen is that Rove overrides the messages coming from the directors and sends Megyn Kelly on a bizarre journey deep into the bowels of the network to confront the back-end analysts who are making the state calls. The whole episode is notable since it is obviously unscripted and offers a glimpse into the way media outlets stage manage election nights. Continue reading

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The (Fact) Challenge Flag: A New American Model for Debates

Last week I was talking with Joe Kahne about the presidential debates. I was expressing my deep concern about the willingness of candidates to make inaccurate statements during debates. We were both musing about how debates could be fact checked in real time. Joe came up with a great idea that would bring an innovation from football into politics: the challenge flag.

In NLF games, coaches are given two red flags to throw if they want to challenge a referee’s call. When a coach throws a flag, the call is reviewed. If the ref made the right call, the coach loses a time out. If the ref made the wrong call, the call is corrected and the coach isn’t charged a time out. If the coach makes two correct challenges, they get a third challenge flag to throw.

Joe suggested that each candidate receive a few challenge flags. The flags are limited, so you wouldn’t want to throw it willy-nilly. But, if something was off enough and important enough, out could come the flag. The statement would be immediately fact checked. It would be like a presidential debate game show! If the statement turned out to be correct, the candidate throwing the flag would look silly. If the statement turned out to be incorrect, we would have real time calling out of candidate falsehoods. And, think of the excitement of waiting for the flag…

Joe’s idea would likely increase the accuracy for candidate statements and viewership of the debates—that’s a democratic win-win.

(For more on Joe’s idea, see his Huffington Post blog post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-kahne/teachers-debate-moderators_b_2026666.html)

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Will either Presidential candidate talk about reproductive justice?

A month ago on August 28th, Republican Party leaders officially announced the party’s platform including the proclamation that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed” and the plan to ensure no federal funds go to any health care provider that also performs abortions (i.e., Planned Parenthood). And I imagine activists on both sides of the abortion debate were shocked—and breathed a sigh of relief. While some other activists are still wondering if there is a way to talk about reproductive issues in less binary terms. Continue reading

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“Ground Wars” and Beyond

By Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

It’s a real pleasure to read so many interesting essays on Ground Wars—books are meant to be used, and the discussions hosted here on Mobilizing Ideas show some of the many ways in which I hope the argument and research I’ve presented in my book will be put to use in different contexts.

All the essays confirm the main thesis advanced in Ground Wars. It goes basically like this—

1)     American political campaigns today face a specific combination of increased media fragmentation, low and uneven interest in politics, and a high degree of partisan polarization that makes field operations—primarily pursued in the form of canvassing and phone banking—particularly appealing to campaign strategists.

2)     Experimental research has shown that personalized contacts are particularly effective ways of mobilizing “lazy partisans” and may even help persuade some of the (rare) swing voters.  Continue reading


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How the Pimp with the Limp is the Key to Winning Campaigns

By Evan Sutton

What do DJ LAZ (AKA, Miami’s “Pimp with the Limp”), the Food Network, #Eastwooding, TampaBay.com, your smart phone, and a neighbor knocking on your door have in common?

Each one is a key part of how President Obama’s re-election campaign plans to win on November 6. The formula is simple: reach each of us where we are, engage us with a message based in values and shared experiences, and motivate us to take action.

This strategy is apparent in actions big and small. Obama won’t win because of Twitter, but a recent moment shows just how seriously the campaign is taking the need to meet people where they are with a values-based message. Continue reading


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Whither the Ground War?

By Dana R. Fisher

In Rasmus Kleis Nielsen’s recently published Ground Wars, the author provides a detailed account of the continued importance of people power in American politics.  Using data collected from ethnographic research with two Democratic campaigns for the House of Representatives in 2008, the author tells the story of how the Democratic party runs its field operations, working with individual volunteers and part-timers to get their candidates elected (or not, as is the case with one of the two case studies in the book).  The book provides an interesting account of the political Left in America.  However, it leaves the reader very curious to understand how the two cases presented fit within the apparatus of the Democratic Party, as well as into the broader spectrum of politics in America today. As we look towards the upcoming election, big questions arise about how the field will be managed and the ground war fought this year for both the Democrats and the Republicans.  Thanks to research conducted by a handful of scholars including Nielsen, we know a decent amount about how field operations work on the political Left and how the Democratic ground war has changed in the past ten years. Continue reading

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Big Data and Big Money

By Zephyr Teachout

The last ten years have witnessed two revolutions in political organizing: I will identify them as the big data transformation, and the big money transformation. The first is the revolution wrought by the internet and data mining: the use of the internet for organizing, fundraising, spreading news, and voter turn out. This is what is covered in what looks to be a fascinating book, Kleis Nielsen¹s Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns. The second is the revolution wrought by law, namely, the Supreme Court. In a series of cases culminating in Citizens United, the Supreme Court struck down several democratically passed laws designed to cabin the direct political influence of corporations.

I am particularly interested in observing the interaction between these two changes, both of which have implications for the institutions of campaigns.

The Big Data change gives relative power to two groups: Continue reading

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