Wednesday, May 5, 2021

A “Perfect Storm” for Pro-Life Activists?

By Susan Roberts

Conservative attacks on reproductive rights are once again in the news. Headlines were made when Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court, and pro-choice advocates could only imagine the restrictions on access to abortion that would result. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey made headlines by enacting the nation’s most restrictive bill on prevention of abortion at the sign of a fetal heartbeat, and pro-lifers anticipated a snowball effect of similar pieces of legislation around the country. 

Most recently, Arizona GOP legislator Walter Blackman made headlines when he said his pro-life proposal was “perfect” because it would prosecute women having abortion for homicide, and providers characterized the legislation as “nothing less than appalling.”  Indeed, pro-life advocates are very encouraged, and pro-choice activists are very worried.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Can You "Claim Credit" When You Voted Against The Bill? Yes. Yes You Can.

By Michael Bitzer

Following passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, which contains the latest round of stimulus checks and other policy initiatives, Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn, of North Carolina's Eleventh Congressional District, sent two tweets announcing several grants issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and funded through the ARA that would impact his western North Carolina district:

This is a classic example, from political science research, of 'credit claiming' by legislators to send cues and signals to their constituents (especially to the voters back home) of the member's legislative impact for the district. 

And yet, on the actual vote for the ARA, Cawthorn was a "nay" vote, voting against the legislation by proxy, and issued a statement that read, in part:

Friday, March 19, 2021

What Might SB 326 Mean in Practice?

By Christopher Cooper

The "Election Integrity Act," SB 326 was filed in the NC Senate on March 18, 2021 by Senators Daniel, Newton, and Hise. The bill has a number of provisions, including (1) "prohibit[ing] the state board of elections and county boards of elections from accepting private monetary donations for certain purposes," (2) "appropriat[ing] funds to establish a program to identity and assist voters needing photo identification",  (3) "amend[ing] the date by which a voter must request an absentee ballot, and (4) amending the date by which a "mail-in absentee ballot must be received."

While the first two provisions are important and worthy of study, the third and fourth policy changes are ready-made for the type of empirical analysis that we try to provide on this blog. In this brief entry, I report results from a simple simulation of whose votes would not have been counted and who's would have been rejected in the past two General Elections if SB 326 had been the law.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Special Event: Levine Museum of the New South's "What is it going to take? Overthrowing Democracy"

By Michael Bitzer

On Tuesday, March 16, beginning at 7 PM, I'll have the pleasure of talking with David Zucchino about his book, "Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy." The event is part of the Levine Museum of the New South's series on "What Is It Going To Take? Overthrowing Democracy," which attempts to place the January 6th insurrection into historical and modern context.

The event is free, and will be streamed on the museum's webpage, YouTube account, and Facebook page

Monday, March 8, 2021

Voting Rights Hanging in the Balance

By Susan Roberts

Following the historic turnout in Election 2020, states across the country are contemplating or crafting legislation to change access to the ballot box. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, these restrictive proposals are born of the claims of voter and election fraud widely circulated by President Trump and his supporters. The Brennan Center, the go-to tracker of such legislation, estimates that around 240 pieces of restrictive legislation have been introduced in 43 states. Moreover, these proposed regulations are not limited to “swing” or “battleground” states. As of March 4, North Carolina has not passed any such legislation this year, but given controversial efforts in the last ten years, it may be simply a matter of time until such proposals come to the General Assembly.

By and large, there was agreement by state officials that 2020 was one of the most free and fair elections in recent memory. Indeed, a recent report from The Hoover Institution, an influential and conservative think tank, used rigorous statistical modeling to evaluate the claims of election illegalities and found no validity to support fraud allegations. The failure of the over fifty lawsuits contesting elections results further debunks claims of election corruption.

Four considerations can shed light on the issue of voting rights changes following Election 2020: (1) the number and scope of proposed regulations, (2) the pending Supreme Court case of Bronovich v. Democratic National Committee, (3) the package of proposed changes in Georgia, and (4) the potential long term impact of the claims of voter fraud.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Reflections on National Term Limits Day

By Christopher Cooper

February 27 was National Term Limits day. While it didn’t exactly sweep the nation, politicians and citizens alike posted on Twitter (#TermLimitsDay), placed signs in their yard, and otherwise let it be known that they thought politicians’ terms should be limited. Heck, there’s even a podcast devoted to the movement.

 

Surveys that ask about the issue consistently find that term limits are popular with the public. For example, a McLaughlin and Associates survey found that 82% of the public supports term limits. A 2013 GallupPoll came to a similar conclusion—75% of the people surveyed supported term limits for members of the US House and Senate. Various state polls also indicate strong support for term limits. The polling data are clear: people like term limits.

 

It's easy to understand why term limits are so popular: trust in government is at an all-time low, people don’t like Congress, they don’t like their state legislature, they don’t like politicians in general, and yet incumbents win the vast majority of the time. So, why don’t we just “throw the bums out” and start over every few years?

 

The problem is that term limits don’t solve the problems they were meant to solve. They introduce new ones. 


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Getting What We Pay For

By Chris Cooper

I am pleased that The Assembly, a new "digital magazine about the people, institutions, and ideas" that shape North Carolina recently published my piece, "Getting What We Pay For." In it, I make the case that we should give more resources (salary, staff, session length) to members of our General Assembly. I thought readers of this blog might be interested in the piece, and in what the folks at The Assembly are doing.

Monday, February 22, 2021

A Conversation about Trumpism vs. Trumpian vs. The Party of Trump

In this ‘conversation’ blog piece, the four of us (Whitney Ross Manzo, aka WRM; Michael Bitzer, aka MB; Chris Cooper, aka CC; and Susan Roberts, aka SR) consider recent developments within the Republican Party and what “Trumpism” may, or may not, necessarily mean in our politics. 

Just to get a sense of things before we dive into the specifics, how do you teach what a political party is to your students?


WRM: I use V.O. Key’s famous 3-part description: the party in government, the party organization, and the party in the electorate. The hardest part is getting students to understand the difference between the party organization and the party in government, because usually the party organization is unknown to all except the most ardent political watchers. When you add in all 50 states’ party organizations, the “organization” becomes even more murky.


MB: Same for me. And, for the most part, students tend to find the “triangle’s corners” fairly easy to remember (especially in my Southern accent): PIG, PIE, and PAO (the last one is a bit weird, granted, but it’s basically “pay-oo”). And not just with students, but with reporters as well. To me, it makes a clear sense of how a party might be ‘viewed,’ and with those three corners, where perhaps Trump’s greatest influences might be found. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Slow Erosion of Swing Counties in North Carolina

By Christopher Cooper

Anyone with even a passing familiarity of American politics is well-aware of the "swing state" concept--the idea that most states are increasingly locked into one party or the other, whereas a small number of swing states can "swing" from one party to the other. 

In the past few elections, there has been increasing attention on swing counties--counties (often situated in battleground states), that could swing from one party to the other, from one election to the next. As this brief post will demonstrate, North Carolina counties are increasingly red or blue and the number of "swing counties" is at an all-time low. This trend has important implications for polarization and for the future of North Carolina and American politics.

Monday, February 8, 2021

When Parachuting Journalists Don't Even Bother Jumping Out of the Plane

By Michael Bitzer 

A recent article in The Atlantic is getting a lot of play in the Old North State's political arena by asking the question, "What Does This Man Know That Other Democrats Don't?", regarding the success that North Carolina governor Roy Cooper has had over his political career. 

In the article, the author traces Cooper's time as a state representative up to currently serving as the state's chief executive officer (note to author: we don't call our state representatives "general assemblyman," but rather our legislature is known as the General Assembly, with representatives and senators who compose the bicameral body).

And while several of the state's leading political strategists weighed in on Cooper's success and trying to define it, there was no mentioned made of several important facets that could have helped further explain, or at least address, the question "what's so different about Roy Cooper winning in North Carolina?"