31 October 2012

Much More Than the Presidency is at Stake

The SZ has a nice piece on the battle to control the U.S. Senate, which is also up for grabs next Tuesday. Who controls the Senate is important because the Senate, in many instances, can directly check the power of the President (treaties, nominations, etc.). But equally important is the fact that the Senate is a co-equal partner with the House of Representative in the legislative process. Put a different way, if one party controls both the House and Senate, that party is more likely to be able to draft bills that they favor.

More importantly, as the SZ points out, who controls the Senate may also determine what the next President can accomplish:
"Zurzeit sind fünf Szenarien denkbar, die zeigen, wie unterschiedlich groß der mögliche Spielraum für Obama und Romney trotz eines Sieges sein kann. (see here for the five scenarios)"

How We Pick Our Judges: Missouri Style

Apparently some folks in the State of Missouri are not at all happy with the system they have for selecting judges. In Missouri, court vacancies are filled using an independent commission who sends candidates to the governor for his or her approval. Currently, the commission is made up of a Supreme Court judge, three lawyers selected by the Missouri Bar Association and three gubernatorial appointees who are not lawyers. Critics of the plan claim that this gives too much power to the Bar Association, which according to critics, are dominated by trial lawyers.

Under an alternative plan that will be on the ballot next Tuesday, the Supreme Court judge would be replaced with a forth gubernatorial appointee. But the fiercest critics of the judicial nomination system in Missouri are not endorsing this alternative plan, instead continuing their push for open and contested elections for all judges.

“The issue is very important,” said Gary Harris of the advocacy group Better Courts for Missouri. “Everyone wants access to fair and impartial courts and everyone wants judges who are impartial.”

A question for students to ponder. If the goal is indeed fair and impartial courts, is a push for elected judges really the answer?

23 October 2012

All About the Swing States

Der Spiegel has a rather accurate description of what the U.S. Presidential Election has come down to: Swing States. The modern Presidential Election is fought not nationwide, but in a few states where the election close. Places like California, Texas, and New York are rarely visited by the candidates despite having the most votes in the Electoral College, because it is already assumed that one candidate or the other will win the state. I would be curious to hear what students think about this system after reading the Spiegel piece.

16 October 2012

Everything You Need to Know About Presidential Debate History

The Week has an interesting, concise history of American presidential debates. A few take away factoids: The debates between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in 1858 are widely considered to be the first debates between presidential candidates. These debates have taken on mythical proportions in the American political psyche. The first modern television debate took place between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, but this did not begin a tradition, as it was not until 1976 until another set of debates took place. The Nixon/Kennedy debate also seemed to put in motion the importance of style over substance. Give the article a read to see how so.