At the Republican National Convention in 2012, it was Clint Eastwood who made a splash with his speech regarding President Obama. At the Democratic National Convention in that same year, Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar fame, made a veiled reference to Eastwood’s speech and made overtures toward younger Americans to vote. In 1964, actor Raymond Massey made a campaign commercial for Republican Barry Goldwater. Actor E.G. Marshall filmed a spot for Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Paul Newman campaigned for another Democrat in 1968, Eugene McCarthy. Sammy Davis Jr. endorsed President Nixon. Singer Pearl Bailey in 1976 for President Ford. Even Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon endorsed Ralph Nader in 2000. The list of celebrities endorsing and campaigning for Presidents and presidential candidates is almost endless. I once watched a PBS documentary entitled, “Vote For Me”, where the then head of the Oklahoma Democratic Party referred to politics as “show business for ugly people.” He was alluding to the entertainment value of political campaigns and how the political process had become superficial over the years. This documentary was filmed in the mid-1990s.
Today, it seems as if politics and entertainment industry have come together as one. Entertainers of all political stripes are now engaged in the political process by adding their opinions to the issues, events, and candidates of the day through social media and traditional media outlets alike. Has the separation between politics and entertainment become blurred over the years? Do you believe that entertainers have any influence on the political process?
There are four primary ideologies espoused in the United States. We usually discuss them from a left-to-right perspective, so that is how they’ll be presented here. First off, an ideology is a clear, coherent, and consistent set of beliefs about the role of government and its relationship with the individual. Those on the left side of the ideological scale tend to believe in more federal government involvement, while those on the right side of the scale believe in a federal government that is smaller in size and scope. We will look at the four primary ideologies (socialism, liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism) from an economic perspective. The baseline interpretation of each ideology, for our purposes here, is founded on economic principles and government’s reach within the economy. When social issues (i.e. gay marriage, abortion) or the military are discussed, that consistency which makes up the fundamental makeup of an ideology gets clouded. Here are some brief descriptions of the four ideologies:
Socialism: This ideology is found on the left-hand side of the left-to-right scale. Socialists believe in curbing the excesses associated with private capital, but also they believe in a more active government intertwining itself within privately run businesses. The end result being that privatization would no longer exist, and that which was once private becomes “public” in the form of a government controlled and regulated economy. Socialism would provide more government programs to those in need, but would also need more taxes from the public to pay for those programs.
Liberalism: Moving to the right of socialism is the liberal ideology. Liberals tend to believe in the role of government as a “safety net”. Government is designed to help those in need through social welfare programs. This may sound like socialism in theory, but liberals do not believe in government controlled, or statist, society. Private capital and businesses may be regulated and taxed by the federal government, but they would not be taken over and controlled by the government either.
Conservatism: To the right of the liberal perspective is the conservative ideology. In the case of the conservative, he believes in a smaller government which is cut down to size by reducing the number of social welfare and spending programs in the United States. Conservatives also believe in cutting taxes.
Libertarianism: The ideology at the most right of the scale being described here is libertarianism. Libertarianism, at its American core, was promoted during the American Revolution. Classic liberalism, as it was called then, supported a federal government that had very limited powers. The definition of limited powers would be derived from the United States Constitution. Simply put, if there was a question on the size and scope of the federal government, then the Constitution would be final arbiter in settling a governmental dispute between the federal government and the states. Only that which is written specifically for the federal government in the Constitution can belong to the federal government. That which is not a federal government power would then belong to the states.
Can we apply ideological interpretations to the state and local levels? Is there such a thing as “socialist garbage pickup” or “libertarian libraries”? Do ideologies matter at the state or local levels or are we looking for politicians who apply pragmatism rather than ideology in their decision making?
In his seminal work, “Congress: The Electoral Connection”, David R. Mayhew says among things that “…politics is best studied as a struggle among men and women to gain and maintain power and the consequences of that struggle.” Do you agree with Mayhew’s assessment of politics?
Former Republican United States Senator Chuck Hagel (Nebraska) is President Obama‘s pick to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. He has to receive a majority of support from the Senate in order to be confirmed as the new Secretary.
Are the two major political parties in the United States currently realigning themselves? Realignment or a realigning/critical election, has been defined by Walter Dean Burnham, as an event that occurs every 30-36 years. When realignment does occur, the political parties tend to reinvent themselves in order to stay relevant. They do this by adjusting their political party platforms while the country or the political electorate changes. Sometimes, however, it is the critical election that adjusts the way the voting behaves. For the most part, political scientists agree that the United States has had five party systems. The first party system somewhere between the creation of American political parties to the time of Democratic-Republican Party dominance (1789-1828). The second party system occurred during the height of the Democratic Party strength and the somewhat competitive Whig Party (1828-1860). The third party system took place with the emergence of the Republican Party and the election of Abraham Lincoln and lasted until the late 1890s (1860-1896). In fourth party system, the parties aligned themselves based on the economy, as Democrats became the party of unions and an agrarian mindset, while the Republicans captured big business and industry within their ranks (1896-1932). With the fifth party system, the Democrats took on the role of supporting the New Deal, while the Republicans opposed the FDR platform. From the time of the New Deal, Democrats have supported public policy solutions created by the federal government. Republicans supported solutions initiated by state governments. This party system has lasted since 1932 (1932-Present). The two major parties have continued to promote their party platforms from a federal vs. state government angle. Since both parties have not changed since 1932, what would it take for the American party system realign once again in a sixth party system?
Former Democratic United States Senator George McGovern died early Sunday morning, October 21, 2012. He was 90. He leaves a legacy of being a champion of liberal causes in the United States. McGovern is also remembered for losing to Richard Nixon in the 1972 Presidential election by a landslide. He tried again in 1984, but was beaten in the primaries that year. What George McGovern should be remembered for, however, is his role in how we nominate our Presidential nomination process.
In 1968, the Democratic Party nomination for President was in disarray. Senator Robert Kennedy, the likely nominee of the party, had been assassinated after the California primary. The candidate with the most delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. Having the most delegates gave McCarthy the inside track to the nomination. McCarthy was deemed to be too much of a “peace candidate” for President by the Democratic establishment. So much so, that party leaders including President Lyndon Johnson and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley took liberties with the delegate selection process and worked to nominate Vice President Hubert Humphrey for President. Humphrey did not compete in any primaries. After an arduous primary season, Democratic voters had been shut out essentially in the Presidential nomination process.
This is where George McGovern comes in. He, and Minnesota Representative Donald Fraser, headed a commission that would streamline the nomination process so that voters would have a direct say on who their nominee for President would be. The McGovern-Fraser Commission, as it was informally called, was charged in part with making sure that party leaders would not work behind closed doors to manipulate the nomination process.
National party convention delegates were to be chosen through direct primary elections. Previously to the Commission, primary results were binding in some states and non-binding in others. In those states with binding results, the number of delegates sent to the national convention was known by the public. In those states with non-binding primaries, the primary looked more like a beauty contest. In those cases, the delegate selection process was more likely to be determined by party leaders and not the voters. In some states, delegates were chosen in state conventions. Convention attendees tended to favor party leader-backed candidates. Outsider or anti-establishment candidates for President (or any office) had little chance of gaining their party’s nomination.
McGovern-Fraser created uniformity in the delegate selection process. Party leaders now had less of say in the selection of a Presidential nominee. Primaries have been the deciding factor in the nominating process since McGovern-Fraser. McGovern was the first to benefit from the change in the rules, as he became the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1972.
Not since 1968 has either party had a contested nomination for President. It is highly unlikely that the major parties will have another convention like the one in Chicago where party leaders ignored the will of people and selected a candidate for President who did not run in one single primary. George McGovern made the process simpler and gave the public its rightful say in selecting its Presidential nominees. For that, George McGovern should be remembered.
You can follow the link below for a 1972 campaign ad for George McGovern.