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DUE Day before Christmas Break, 2013—250 POINTS—NO DEADLINE EXTENSIONS
This “essay” assignment will ask you to write “not-so-mini-essays” of about 2-4 pages each.** Use a common title page entitled “Political Participation Essays.” For these essays, it is not necessary to have thesis statements unless it is requested in the question. Merely answer the questions you are asked. Note that in several cases “answers” are provided—meaning that you have to explain why these are the “right answers.”
Rough drafts are DUE by the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Break.

For each essay:

Start with an introduction, begin with definitions


Use standard font size, double-spacing, MLA, APA, or Chicago manual style bibliography is required.

You must use parenthetical or Chicago manual documentation throughout the paper.

You must use at least 18 outside sources; six books and 6 scholarly journal articles, or 2 per essay. A or B level essays will contain more.

Internet sources do not count towards the limit and MUST BE ACADEMIC IN NATURE!!

ESSAY #1: 30 points (3)
Elections in the United States are characterized by low voter turnout.

  1. Define “demographic characteristic” and “institutional obstacle.” (to voting)

  2. Discuss 6 demographic characteristics associated with nonvoting and 8 institutional obstacles to nonvoting. Explain how each of these affects the likelihood that someone will vote. Use journal quotes to help you!

  3. Then, identify, give an example, and discuss 4 linkage institutions that try to connect citizens to the political process and how they accomplish this.

Possible demographic characteristics:

Age, region, class (income), religion, education, race/ethnicity, residence, gender
Possible Institutional Obstacles (systemic difficulties): MAKE LINKS BETWEEN INCOME/ED (REINFORCING CLEAVAGES):
Registration/residence requirements

More elections in U.S.

Longer ballot/ballot complexity

Fewer choices because of two-party system or Relative satisfaction with the system

Single day, Tuesday voting (HOW DO OTHER COUNTRIES DO IT, like France)

No penalty for not voting (OTHER COUNTRIES? Australia, Italy)

Restrictive absentee voting requirements

Citizenship (takes how long to apply. Alien requirements)

People registered as independents in closed primary states

Disenfranchisement of institutionalized populations (prisoners and mentally incapacitated)

Linkage institutions: elections, media, interest groups(professional organizations, media and political parties

ESSAY #2: 30 points (2-3)
National interest groups often target national-level policymaking institutions to achieve their policy objectives. Select 2 of the following 4 interest groups:
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

American Medical Association (AMA)

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)

Plus, you must do a third organization, including, but not limited to:
National Rifle Association (NRA)

National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL)

Chamber of Commerce

The Sierra Club

Or any 3rd interest group you clear with the instructor.
For each group, do each of the following:

  1. Identify one major national policymaking institution that this group targets.

  2. Describe TWO resources or characteristics of the group you have chosen AND explain how it influences the choice of the target you identified in part 1.

The student must identify the national interest group he/she is discussing.

A correct identification of a national policymaking institution

that the selected group would target:
•The President

• Congress

•The Judiciary

•The Bureaucracy: A SPECIFIC AGENCY OF the bureaucracy

If student identifies a specific agency, it should be clearly and substantively connected to the interest group, e.g., AARP focuses on Social Security Administration, Medicare portion of HHS, FDA, AND STUDENTS SHOULD STATE THE REMEDY THESE GROUPS WANT. AMA might focus on the FDA or the Dept of HHS. NAACP might focus on the Dept. of Justice’s Civil Rights Division or the EEOC. NAM focuses on FTC, Dept of Commerce, Transportation, Labor (OSHA). For judiciary, consider amicus briefs.
Note: Incorrect answers are non-national institutions or non-policymaking institutions.

ESSAY #3: 30 points (2-3)
Explain how each of the political factors listed below makes it difficult for the federal government to enact public policy. While all three are clearly contributors to the federal government’s public policy-making incompetence, argue that one is more important than the others. Provide at least two examples for each explanation. Again, use journals!

  • Divided Government

  • Weak party discipline

  • Growth in the number of interest groups and political action committees

Divided Government: 2 types

President/Congress controlled by different parties

Chambers of Congress controlled by different parties
Weak party discipline:
Crossover voting

Diminished party ties

Difficulty predicting party support leads to hesitancy

Leadership has difficulty getting votes

Individual members can defect without severe consequences
Growth of PACs:
Competing Interests

Interest groups can oppose policy initiatives

Interest groups are “veto groups”

Congressional members receive so much PAC money that they can be unresponsive to party demands (use specific cases you research)

ESSAY #4: 30 points (2-3)
Since the 1960s, the process of selecting Presidential candidates has been altered by the changing role of Presidential primaries and national party conventions.

    • Define “primary election” and explain the 3 types: open, closed, and blanket

    • Define “general election”

    • Discuss at least 6 effects that have resulted from this change in the Presidential selection process.

Possible Effects:

  • Longer Campaigns

  • Increased Cost of Campaigns

  • Early fund-raising important for creating momentum

  • Media coverage/horse-race coverage

  • Front-loading (Iowa, NH)

  • Ticket-balancing different now (Kennedy ’60 vs. Clinton ‘92/’96 and Bush ’00/’04)

  • New breed of professional consultants

  • Running for election is a full-time job

  • Decline of Party leadership blocs

  • Moving primaries to earlier dates

  • Increased importance of primaries/decreased role of conventions (1976 last competitive)

  • More extremist candidates may result

  • Process more representative

ESSAY #5: In the 1990s, Presidential election campaigns have become more candidate-centered and less focused on issues and party labels. This change has been attributed to both how the media covers Presidential campaigns and to how candidates use the media.

  1. Explain how the relationship can be symbiotic.

  2. Identify and explain 5 ways the media have contributed to candidate-centered political campaigns.

  3. Identify and explain 5 ways in which Presidential candidates use the media.

Ways MEDIA has contributed to candidate-centered presidential campaigns:
Note: Must be some linkage to candidate-centered campaigns
The following are some acceptable ways that the MEDIA contribute to

candidate-centered campaigns:

•Coverage of background of candidate

•Image-centered coverage/ personality

•Talk shows, TV debates

•Horserace, reporting polls

•Candidate sound bites

•De-emphasizing party

•Feeding frenzy

•Coverage of convention

•Investigative reporting/ scandals

•Focus on candidate gaffes (Howard Dean “Confederate Flag” or “I Have a Scream” speech; George Romney and “brainwashing”)

Ways presidential CANDIDATES use of the media has contributed to

candidate-centered campaigns:
The following are some acceptable ways that CANDIDATES' use of the

media has contributed to candidate-centered campaigns:

•Negative commercials/mudslinging

•Attention-getting: public appearances to enhance public attention

to individual qualities; timing of candidate activities to make free

news coverage

•Seeking contributions

•Leaking information

•Image building: positive ads; hiring consultants; TV debates that

focus on individual appearance/qualities; getting on talk shows

•Candidate creating choreographed opportunities

•Use of Internet to disseminate information

•Sound bites

This is a multi-part essay. Take a deep breath!

  • First, briefly explain why rules were invented to limit Federal election campaign contributions (1-2 sentences—your intro).

  • Define “soft money”

  • Define “hard money”

  • Define “independent expenditures on behalf of a candidate”

  • Explain the 1971 and 1974 Federal Election Campaign Acts and the limits that they imposed. Be specific.

  • Explain Buckley v. Valeo, and explain the court’s reasoning, as well as which portions were left unscathed and which were struck down—and WHY.

  • 3 Obstacles to Campaign Finance Reform WERE soft money, incumbency, and Buckley v. Valeo (1976). For all 3 obstacles, be sure to provide: 1) A clear description of the definition and significance of each obstacle AND 2) An explanation of how the obstacle has made it difficult for Congress to enact significant Campaign Finance Reform. Defend why one of these was the chief impediment to Campaign Finance Reform.

  • Finally, explain all of the provisions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act (aka “BCRA”, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act). Explain what changes it made to pre-existing law, and evaluate McConnell v. FEC. What parts of BCRA did it save, and what parts did it strike down?

  • Explain how “527” organizations have flaunted the rules, and what they are. (USE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES—at least 2--MoveOn, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, etc.)

  • Explain what a “Super PAC” is, how they function, and how they have been used in the 2012 Presidential election.


Buckley v. Valeo (1976)

Description: Supreme Court struck down certain campaign donation limits and spending limits as violation of free expression provisions of 1st Amendment.

Explanation: Contributing to one’s own campaign, contributing to parties for party building, and spending money independently of a campaign are forms of protected free expression. A constitutional amendment is required to limit free expression, not a more easily enacted statute.
Soft Money

Description: unregulated donations to political parties for party activities/party building; usually spent in the states to aid candidates indirectly in various ways.

Explanation: Both parties benefit from soft money, so partisan members of Congress and presidents have little incentive toregulate this resource; there is no critical policy-making mass for reform. Interest groups are often the contributors of these funds, perceive benefits from their use, and have no incentive to urge office seekers or incumbents with whom they have a relationship to regulate these monies.

Description: an office holder who is pursuing reelection


Incumbents benefit most from existing campaign finance laws.

Incumbents have a high probability of re-election and thus attract more donations than challengers, which gives them a desirable advantage in re-election contests. Incumbents know the consequences of current policy, find them favorable, and realize that changes may create unanticipated negative consequences for themselves.

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