Tag Archives: elections

Direct and Indirect Challenges to the Pipeline

pipeline_protest1Over the course of the last two years, two pipeline projects – Northern Gateway and Keystone – have generated opposition from environmental groups in both the U.S. and Canada. As Rennie of the Canadian Press (June 17) notes, the pipelines have become highly political in both countries. In an article I wrote for Critical Mass, I mentioned that in the U.S., the Keystone pipeline project has posed a problem for President Obama and the Democrats given that environmentalists are against its construction while many others see it as creating jobs. There has been a tremendous push in Congress to get Obama to sign legislation that would allow for Keystone’s construction on the one hand, and Democrats hoping that Obama would veto such a bill on the other. Nonetheless, policy experts seem to believe that the Keystone project would inevitably move forward – if Canada is building a pipeline anyway, why shouldn’t Americans benefit from it? In fact, earlier polls did show that the American public thought energy security was a more important issue than greenhouse gases and a majority favored the pipeline’s construction (although the saliency of the issue among the public has likely varied greatly over the last year). Continue reading

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Egyptian Election Update

Today was the third day of Egypt’s second presidential elections in the past three years. Elections were extended for a third day, and an impromptu last-minute national holiday were announced, due to low voter turnout.[1] This is not surprising given the tense, repressive, current political climate in Egypt.

Votes are currently being counted, and pro-Sisi celebratory elections have already begun in Egypt.

General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who removed Egypt’s democratically elected president ten months ago, is not surprisingly the only serious contender in the election. If/when Sisi wins, he will hold a tremendous amount of political power. The parliament is currently disbanded, which allows Sisi to issue laws by presidential degree. Sisi also has support of the military, and a considerable degree of public support.

If Sisi gets elected, there is little hope for democracy in Egypt in the near future. As military chief, his crackdown on dissent far exceeded that of Mubarak. Sisi has indicated in television interviews he has no tolerance for the labor strikes and other street demonstrations against the military. He is also sure to send the Muslim Brotherhood underground. He ousted former President Muhammed Morsi in July and has pledged to end the Brotherhood’s existence in Egypt.[2] Yet the Brotherhood has survived many cycles of repression before (see Davis and Robinson’s (2012) book). They are sure to do so again given their massive network of civic organizations which permeate Egyptian society. Repression of the Brotherhood not only excludes them from the conversation and makes  democracy in Egypt impossible, but it also creates the conditions for future violence and unrest.

Deputy Research Director of the newly formed Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Allison McManus, is tracking the elections on the Institute’s webpage at: http://timep.org/presidential-elections-monitoring. The website compiles media coverage, voter experiences, and gives overviews of the election and its candidates.

[1] www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/27/egypt-presidential-election-extended-third-day;


[2] http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303749904579579782275804034


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Roe and the Gender Gap

By Christina Wolbrecht

As a teaser for our March essay dialogue (launching on March 4) on the legacy of Roe v. Wade and the long-term trajectories of reproductive movements, we’ve asked Christina Wolbrecht, Associate Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame, to comment on abortion and the partisan gender gap.  Her full essay on this topic was published at Mischiefs of Faction.

The Roe decision, forty years ago this year, sparked a heated political battle over reproductive rights that continues to this day.  Among the consequences, many believe, was the emergence of the partisan gender gap, the tendency of women to identify with the Democratic party and to support Democratic candidates to a greater extent than do men.  This belief is not an accident:  The women’s movement (specifically NOW), fearing a loss of political influence following the failure to achieve ERA ratification, first drew attention to the gender gap in presidential elections and sought to link it to the parties’ positions on women’s issues, such as abortion and the ERA, in the early 1980s.  The expectation that abortion drives the gender gap remains popular; this past Fall, well-known FiveThirtyEight polling analyst Nate Silver attributed the on-going gender gap in presidential elections to Roe and abortion specifically.

As intuitively appealing as such claims may be, the association between abortion and the gender gap has been directly contradicted by three decades of social science research.  I take a closer look at the partisan gender gap and the question of whether abortion is the culprit in a blog post on the political science blog, Mischiefs of Faction.

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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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“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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People as Media: Campaigns and Actually Existing Democracy

By Daniel Kreiss

In Ground Wars, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen makes an important contribution in revealing and analyzing an important trend in political campaigning that has taken shape over the last two decades: the increasing investment in face-to-face political communication through field efforts.  Nielsen describes how over-saturation in advertising markets, media fragmentation, and signature social science field experiments have lead to candidates at all levels of office engaging in “ground wars” fought by volunteers and paid canvassers going door-to-door to identify the partisan affiliations of and deliver messages to voters—all in the hope of bringing sympathizers to the polls on election day.  In light of these findings, Nielsen shows how much political communication scholars have overlooked in focusing so much attention on television advertising and press coverage.  Continue reading

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Organizing as a Campaign Strategy

By Marshall Ganz

Rasmus Klies Nielsen’s Ground Wars brings refreshing focus to the role interpersonal communication can play in even the most high-tech, high dollar, high-profile 2012 electoral campaign. This is an important reality check for those who think it’s all simply a matter of who can buy the best ads.

There is, however, another aspect to this question that I’d like to highlight: the difference in whether one employs interpersonal communication as yet another marketing technique or whether it is used to engage people in organizing to become active participants in the political process.  This distinction is of particular significance for Democrats who cannot rely on the network of gun clubs, evangelical churches, right to life groups, and tea party chapters that so successfully provided the grassroots base for an ascendant conservative movement over the course of the last 30 years.  Continue reading


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