CRF Blog

American Presidency Project

by Bill Hayes

UCSB’s American Presidency Project contains more than 100,000 presidential documents, fully searchable and downloadable. Documents include:

Messages and Papers of the Presidents: Washington–Taft (1789–1913)

Public Papers of the Presidents: Hoover to Obama (1929–2011)

Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents: Carter–G.W. Bush (1977–2009)

Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents: Obama (2009–2016)

The archive also contains thousands of other documents such as party platforms, candidates’ remarks, Statements of Administration Policy, documents released by the Office of the Press Secretary, and election debates.

Charlie Rose Interviews Dexter Filkins

by Bill Hayes

 Charlie Rose interviews the New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins about Syria.

Ten questions, and answers, about the electoral college

by Bill Hayes

In Ten questions, and answers, about the electoral college for the Los Angeles Times, law professor Akhil Reed Amar takes a critical look at how we elect our presidents.

Was the electoral college designed to balance big and small states? Not really. The Congress was indeed so designed, with the House favoring populous states and the Senate giving each state two votes regardless of population. But in the electoral college, big states have more sway, and they have since the beginning.

What about the idea that the framers distrusted direct democracy? It’s overstated.  The framers put the Constitution itself to a popular vote of sorts, provided for direct election of House members (thus breaking with the Articles of Confederation) and favored direct election of governors. [more]

For a free classroom lesson titled “The Electoral College,” go to our Bill of Rights in Action Archive. The lesson is currently only in PDF and you will have to register (if you haven’t already), which is free.

Drawbridges up

by Bill Hayes

In Drawbridges up, The Economist reports that the people in many nations are divided between those who want to open up their countries to the outside world and those want to shut out the outside world.

“The old left-right divide in this country has gone,” laments Rafal Trzaskowski, a liberal politician. Law and Justice plucks popular policies from all over the political spectrum and stirs them into a nationalist stew. Unlike any previous post-communist regime, it eyes most outsiders with suspicion (though it enthusiastically supports the right of Poles to work in Britain).

From Warsaw to Washington, the political divide that matters is less and less between left and right, and more and more between open and closed. Debates between tax-cutting conservatives and free-spending social democrats have not gone away. But issues that cross traditional party lines have grown more potent. Welcome immigrants or keep them out? Open up to foreign trade or protect domestic industries? Embrace cultural change, or resist it?

In 2005 Stephan Shakespeare, the British head of YouGov, a pollster, observed: “We are either ‘drawbridge up’ or ‘drawbridge down’. Are you someone who feels your life is being encroached upon by criminals, gypsies, spongers, asylum-seekers, Brussels bureaucrats? Do you think the bad things will all go away if we lock the doors? Or do you think it’s a big beautiful world out there, full of good people, if only we could all open our arms and embrace each other?”

He was proven spectacularly right in June, when Britain held a referendum on whether to leave the European Union. The leaders of the main political parties wanted to stay in, as did the elite of banking, business and academia. Yet the Brexiteers won, revealing just how many voters were drawbridge-uppers. They wanted to “take back control” of borders and institutions from Brussels, and to stem the flow of immigrants and refugees. Right-wing Brexiteers who saw the EU as a socialist superstate joined forces with left-wingers who saw it as a tool of global capitalism.

A similar fault line has opened elsewhere. In Poland and Hungary the drawbridge-uppers are firmly in charge; in France Marine Le Pen, who thinks that the opposite of “globalist” is “patriot”, will probably make it to the run-off in next year’s presidential election. In cuddly, caring Sweden the nationalist Sweden Democrats topped polls earlier this year, spurring mainstream parties to get tougher on asylum-seekers. Even in Germany some fear immigration may break the generous safety net. [more]

How to Hack an Election

by Bill Hayes

In How to Hack an Election, a Bloomberg Businessweek feature story tells about Andres Sepulveda, who claims to have fixed many elections in Latin America.

It was just before midnight when Enrique Peña Nieto declared victory as the newly elected president of Mexico. Peña Nieto was a lawyer and a millionaire, from a family of mayors and governors. His wife was a telenovela star. He beamed as he was showered with red, green, and white confetti at the Mexico City headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had ruled for more than 70 years before being forced out in 2000. Returning the party to power on that night in July 2012, Peña Nieto vowed to tame drug violence, fight corruption, and open a more transparent era in Mexican politics.

Two thousand miles away, in an apartment in Bogotá’s upscale Chicó Navarra neighborhood, Andrés Sepúlveda sat before six computer screens. Sepúlveda is Colombian, bricklike, with a shaved head, goatee, and a tattoo of a QR code containing an encryption key on the back of his head. On his nape are the words “</head>” and “<body>” stacked atop each other, dark riffs on coding. He was watching a live feed of Peña Nieto’s victory party, waiting for an official declaration of the results.

When Peña Nieto won, Sepúlveda began destroying evidence. He drilled holes in flash drives, hard drives, and cell phones, fried their circuits in a microwave, then broke them to shards with a hammer. He shredded documents and flushed them down the toilet and erased servers in Russia and Ukraine rented anonymously with Bitcoins. He was dismantling what he says was a secret history of one of the dirtiest Latin American campaigns in recent memory.

For eight years, Sepúlveda, now 31, says he traveled the continent rigging major political campaigns. With a budget of $600,000, the Peña Nieto job was by far his most complex. He led a team of hackers that stole campaign strategies, manipulated social media to create false waves of enthusiasm and derision, and installed spyware in opposition offices, all to help Peña Nieto, a right-of-center candidate, eke out a victory. On that July night, he cracked bottle after bottle of Colón Negra beer in celebration. As usual on election night, he was alone.

Sepúlveda’s career began in 2005, and his first jobs were small — mostly defacing campaign websites and breaking into opponents’ donor databases. Within a few years he was assembling teams that spied, stole, and smeared on behalf of presidential campaigns across Latin America. He wasn’t cheap, but his services were extensive. For $12,000 a month, a customer hired a crew that could hack smartphones, spoof and clone Web pages, and send mass e-mails and texts. The premium package, at $20,000 a month, also included a full range of digital interception, attack, decryption, and defense. The jobs were carefully laundered through layers of middlemen and consultants. Sepúlveda says many of the candidates he helped might not even have known about his role; he says he met only a few.

His teams worked on presidential elections in Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Venezuela. [more]


Politics and the New Machine

by Bill Hayes

In Politics and the New Machine for the New Yorker, Jill Lepore reports on the problems of polling in this election.

Even if more people could be persuaded to answer the phone, polling would still be teetering on the edge of disaster. More than forty per cent of America’s adults no longer have landlines, and the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act bans autodialling to cell phones. (The law applies both to public-opinion polling, a billion-dollar-a-year industry, and to market research, a twenty-billion-dollar-a-year industry.) This summer, Gallup Inc agreed to pay twelve million dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of everyone in the United States who, between 2009 and 2013, received an unbidden cell-phone call from the company seeking an opinion about politics. (Gallup denies any wrongdoing.) In June, the F.C.C. issued a ruling reaffirming and strengthening the prohibition on random autodialling to cell phones. During congressional hearings, Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, who is the chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, asked F.C.C. chairman Tom Wheeler if the ruling meant that pollsters would go “the way of blacksmiths.” “Well,” he said, “they have been, right?”

Internet pollsters have not replaced them. Using methods designed for knocking on doors to measure public opinion on the Internet is like trying to shoe a horse with your operating system. Internet pollsters can’t call you; they have to wait for you to come to them. Not everyone uses the Internet, and, at the moment, the people who do, and who complete online surveys, are younger and leftier than people who don’t, while people who have landlines, and who answer the phone, are older and more conservative than people who don’t. Some pollsters, both here and around the world, rely on a combination of telephone and Internet polling; the trick is to figure out just the right mix. So far, it isn’t working. In Israel this March, polls failed to predict Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory. In May in the U.K., every major national poll failed to forecast the Conservative Party’s win.

“It’s a little crazy to me that people are still using the same tools that were used in the nineteen-thirties,” Dan Wagner told me when I asked him about the future of polling. Wagner was the chief analytics officer on the 2012 Obama campaign and is the C.E.O. of Civis Analytics, a data-science technology and advisory firm. Companies like Civis have been collecting information about you and people like you in order to measure public opinion and, among other things, forecast elections by building predictive models and running simulations to determine what issues you and people like you care about, what kind of candidate you’d give money to, and, if you’re likely to turn out on Election Day, how you’ll vote. They might call you, but they don’t need to.

Still, data science can’t solve the biggest problem with polling, because that problem is neither methodological nor technological. It’s political. Pollsters rose to prominence by claiming that measuring public opinion is good for democracy. But what if it’s bad?

A “poll” used to mean the top of your head. Ophelia says of Polonius, “His beard as white as snow: All flaxen was his poll.” When voting involved assembling (all in favor of Smith stand here, all in favor of Jones over there), counting votes required counting heads; that is, counting polls. Eventually, a “poll” came to mean the count itself. By the nineteenth century, to vote was to go “to the polls,” where, more and more, voting was done on paper. Ballots were often printed in newspapers: you’d cut one out and bring it with you. With the turn to the secret ballot, beginning in the eighteen-eighties, the government began supplying the ballots, but newspapers kept printing them; they’d use them to conduct their own polls, called “straw polls.” Before the election, you’d cut out your ballot and mail it to the newspaper, which would make a prediction. Political parties conducted straw polls, too. That’s one of the ways the political machine worked. [more]


How the Photocopier Changed the Way We Worked — and Played

by Bill Hayes

In How the Photocopier Changed the Way We Worked — and Played, Smithsonian magazine argues that 3-D printing will likely change our lives, especially in light of how much photocopiers changed us.

In essence, the photocopier was not merely a vehicle for copying. It became a mechanism for sub-rosa publishing — a way of seizing the means of production, circulating ideas that would previously have been difficult to get past censors and editors. “Xerography is bringing a reign of terror into the world of publishing, because it means that every reader can become both author and publisher,” Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1966.

This had powerful political effects. Secrets were harder to keep, documents easier to leak. Daniel Ellsberg used a copier to reproduce the Pentagon Papers (even having his children help make the replicas at a friend’s office). Fearful of the copier’s power, the Soviet Union tightly controlled access to the machines. In the United States, activists for ACT-UP — the group that fought to have AIDS taken more seriously by doctors and politicians — had a powerful impact in part because they had access to copiers. Many worked at media giants like Condé Nast and NBC, and after doing their work would run off thousands of copies of fliers and posters they’d use to plaster New York City for AIDS-awareness campaigns.

“They’d go in to do the paste-up for all these magazines, and then they would make thousands of posters and fliers that were so integral to what ACT-UP was doing,” notes Kate Eichhorn, an assistant professor at the New School who is writing a book about copiers. “These huge corporations were underwriting this radical activism.” This same force catalyzed the world of alternative culture: Fans of TV shows, sci-fi or movies began to produce zines, small publications devoted to their enthusiasms. The Riot Grrrl movement of young feminist musicians in the ’90s, appalled by mainstream media’s treatment of women, essentially created their own mediasphere partly via photocopiers. “Beyond its function as an ‘office tool,’ the copier has, for many people, become a means of self-expression,” said the authors of Copyart, a 1978 guide to DIY creativity. [more]

International Voter Turnout Rates

Infographic: The U.S. Trails Other Nations In Voter Turnout | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

Dmitry Kiselev Is Redefining the Art of Russian Propaganda

by Bill Hayes

In Dmitry Kiselev Is Redefining the Art of Russian Propaganda, the New Republic reports on Vladimir Putin’s favorite TV host.

Outside Russia, Kiselev is perhaps most famous for his pronouncement that gays and lesbians “should be prohibited from donating blood, sperm, and, in the case of a road accident, their hearts should be either buried or cremated as unsuitable for the prolongation of life.” He made the remark in April 2012 to a studio audience — who clapped approvingly — but the segment did not receive widespread attention until a year later, after Russia passed a law banning “gay propaganda” in the presence of minors. Since then, Kiselev has spent a lot of time trying to explain himself. It was a “controlled flame that I used to ignite the discussion,” he told one interviewer. The problem with homosexuals, Kiselev told another, “is that they carry themselves provocatively … deliberately encouraging and provoking a situation so they become victims.” Still, Kiselev can’t stay away from making gay jokes, if that’s the right word for them: In February, he suggested that the Iwo Jima monument looked like men having sex. “A fevered subconscious could ascribe just about anything to it,” he said, his lips curling into a self-satisfied grin. “Take a closer look: a very modern theme, isn’t it?”

Kiselev’s true target is not the millions of viewers who watch the Rossiya channel — though his ratings are strong, he does not win his time slot — but the handful of people in the Kremlin who set the accepted tone for the country’s political culture. He praises Vladimir Putin extravagantly on air. On the occasion of the president’s sixtieth birthday in October 2012, Kiselev delivered a twelve-minute panegyric that concluded, “In terms of the scale of activity, Putin as a politician is comparable among his predecessors in the twentieth century only to Stalin.” Above all, his show is a portal into the darkest, most conspiratorial urges of the current iteration of Putinism. For years, Putin did not make any ideological claims to legitimacy. Instead, he based his power on Russia’s improving fortunes and rising standard of living. But since his return to the presidency in 2012, he has tried to assemble a new justification for his rule, based on an amalgamation of conservative values, Russian exceptionalism, and a sense that the country is under threat from the malicious encroachments of the West. The crisis in Ukraine, which Putin sees as a proxy struggle between Russia and the West, has only intensified these impulses, and Kiselev presents this worldview at its most uncompromising. [more]

Recent Political Cartoons

by Bill Hayes

 See Cagle’s collection of recent political cartoons.   

 For how to use editorial cartoons in the classroom, see Teaching With Editorial Cartoons.

A Model for Republicans

by Bill Hayes

In A Model for Republicans for the New York Times Book Review, reviews The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters by Karl Rove.

Writing six decades after the election of 1896 brought the retired Ohio governor William McKinley to the White House, the political scientist V. O. Key Jr. identified the Democratic defeat as “so demoralizing and so thorough that the party could make little headway in regrouping its forces until 1916.” The scale of this Republican success — a moment that ushered in a period of Republican Party ascendance that lasted until the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 — draws the attention of the prominent political strategist Karl Rove, who also views McKinley’s victory over the charismatic William Jennings Bryan as pivotal. Rove is in awe, rightly so, of McKinley’s political achievement, and his richly detailed, moment-by-moment account in “The Triumph of William McKinley” brings to life the drama of an electoral contest whose outcome seemed uncertain to the candidate and his handlers until the end. [more]

The bad map we see every presidential election

Clearing Out My Files

by Bill Hayes

Below are several old Bloomberg Businessweek stories relevant to the election.

Peter Coy looks at Why Big Business Is Brushing Off Campaign Trail Rage.

This is a different kind of election year, full of contempt for Big Business. Billionaire flamethrower Donald Trump, who leads the Republican field, has gone after Ford Motor, Kraft Foods, and Apple, among others, for making things outside of the U.S. Ted Cruz presents himself as the nemesis of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. And democratic socialist Bernie Sanders has built an entire campaign around the refrain that Wall Street is guilty of “greed, fraud, dishonesty, and arrogance.”

You might have expected business to mount a vigorous defense. But corporate America has responded to the charges with murmurs. In this gladiators’ match, one side simply hasn’t shown up. Many chief executive officers believe that after the election is over and the noise of the campaign dies down, it will be business as usual for business. For now, they are turning the other cheek. When Trump ripped Ford for its plans to build a big factory in Mexico, the company’s CEO, Mark Fields, wrote Trump a pleasant note explaining that the carmaker was also adding jobs in the U.S. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who’s known for flashes of anger, calmly told CNNMoney in November that he thinks he could talk Bernie Sanders out of breaking up the big banks. “I don’t think Bernie’s going to win,” he said. “I’m not that worried.” [more]

A feature story, How to Get Trump Elected When He’s Wrecking Everything You Built, profiles Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

When Donald Trump wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination on May 3 by winning Indiana and forcing Ted Cruz from the race, it fell to Reince Priebus to formally surrender on behalf of a shellshocked party Establishment. This being 2016 and the Age of Trump, Priebus, the long-serving chairman of the Republican National Committee, did so in a tweet: “@realDonaldTrump will be presumtive [sic] @GOP nominee, we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton.” Depending on your point of view, the misspelling was either an homage to Trump’s haphazard Twitter style or the latest example of a Republican Party that can’t seem to get anything right.

Three days later, Priebus climbed onto a stage in a hotel ballroom on Capitol Hill to sit for a public interview with Politico’s Mike Allen. “This is off the record, right?” he joked, looking a bit nauseous. To Republicans still not resigned to Trump, Priebus was already a symbol of capitulation. John Kasich had just dropped out and criticized Priebus’s anointment of Trump as “completely inappropriate.” Trump, on the other hand, who had once threatened party leaders when it looked as if they might block him at a “rigged” convention, now cast himself as the magnanimous liege, bestowing forgiveness and nicknames. “I call Reince Mr. Switzerland,” he told me during a May 17 interview at his 26th-floor Trump Tower office. “He’s doing a great job as peacemaker.”

In the weeks before Trump prevailed, the political media made a sport of trying to get Priebus to concede that his party was falling to pieces, while Priebus insisted against all evidence that things were going great. Commentators on both the left and right likened him to “Baghdad Bob,” the Saddam Hussein spokesman who maintained during the U.S. invasion of Iraq that victory was imminent, even as U.S. bombs rained down around him. An April 20 interview on CNN perfectly captured Priebus’s anguish. “People assume, oh, you must be miserable. You’ve got a horrible job. But I don’t see it that way,” he offered. “I’m not pouring Baileys in my cereal.” His disavowal mainly suggested that he had contemplated pouring liquor into his cereal bowl. When he sat down onstage, Allen, noting Trump’s victory, presented him with a large bottle of Baileys. “Oh, excellent,” said Priebus. “Now, where’s the Lucky Charms?”

Priebus’s mission at the RNC has been to manufacture some luck: to rebuild a party that lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and lost power completely with Barack Obama’s 2008 victory. While Republicans traded recriminations after Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, Priebus announced that the RNC would conduct a rigorous postmortem of all that had gone wrong and figure out how to refashion the party for the 21st century. “It wasn’t the RNC’s fault that things didn’t work out in 2012,” says Sally Bradshaw, a senior Jeb Bush adviser and a co-author of the resulting report. “But Priebus was willing to say, ‘There’s no other entity that can do this, that can take this on.’?” The key to revival, the authors concluded, was to put a kinder, gentler gloss on the old stalwart Republican ideals (free trade, small government) while reforming immigration laws to entice nonwhite voters who were tuning the party out.

This was a comforting notion, but it hasn’t panned out. “The Jeb Bush guys wrote the autopsy,” says a frustrated Republican strategist who works with the RNC. “Then Jeb Bush ran the worst campaign in presidential history.” By obliterating Jeb, Trump redefined the Republican Party’s identity off the top of his head. And his vision of the GOP’s future is in many ways the diametrical opposite of what Priebus and the party Establishment had imagined. Many politicians, Trump told me, had privately confessed to being amazed that his policies, and his lacerating criticism of party leaders, had proved such potent electoral medicine. Trump says this was obvious, but craven Republicans wouldn’t acknowledge it. So he called bulls—. “It’s funny,” he told me, delighted by the swift triumph of his influence. “It’s like the paper clip: a very simple thing. But one guy got rich, and everyone else said, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’?”

The story Priebus would like to tell, if everyone would just shut up about Trump for a moment, is a tale of perseverance and triumph over long odds — not Trump’s tale, but his own. [more]

In The Great GOP Realignment, Joshua Green looks at the revolt against the Republican establishment and whether the 2016 election will be a realigning election.

American historians generally see five or six elections as realigning: 1800, when Thomas Jefferson’s victory crippled the Federalist Party and shifted power from the North to the South; 1828, when Andrew Jackson’s win gave rise to the two-party system and two decades of Democratic control; 1860, when Abraham Lincoln’s election marked the ascendancy of the Republican Party and the secessionist forces that led to the Civil War; 1896, when William McKinley and a new urban political order were swept into power by a depression and industrialization; and 1932, during the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt’s triumph marked the beginning of three decades of Democratic dominance. Some historians argue that Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory, primed by the stagflation of the 1970s, was also realigning.

Political scientists don’t all subscribe to this theory. It’s more of a conceptual scheme, anyway, since it offers little in the way of predictive power. But it’s a useful way to analyze political change across elections. Academics generally say two major preconditions must be present for a realigning election to occur. First, as the political scientist Paul Allen Beck has written, party loyalty must be sufficiently weak that the electorate is “ripe for realignment.” Second, there must be a triggering event — a “societal trauma,” Beck calls it — such as a war or a depression. Throughout history, wars and depressions have failed to cause big shifts because voters weren’t primed for one. Likewise, periods of voter alienation didn’t cause enduring swings between the parties because there was no triggering event. But when the proper conditions are present, they produce “concentrated bursts of change” that cause turmoil in the presidential nominating process, the political scientist Walter Dean Burnham wrote.

Realignment theory was popular in the 1960s and ’70s, but it’s faded since, because the American electorate has become polarized to the point where long periods of single-party dominance no longer happen. But realignments can still occur. They’re just more likely to happen within parties, rather than between them. [more]

Past and future Trumps

by David De La Torre

In Past and future Trumps, The Economist explores the effects insurgent candidates have had on their parties in the past, and it concludes that, win or lose, Donald Trump will likely leave a permanent mark on the Republican Party.

The rapidly increasing racial diversity of the electorate between then [1972] and now has turned this from a losing strategy into a winning one. McGovern did better with working women than men and better with professionals than with blue-collar workers. This, too, made him a loser in 1972 but provided the template for Democratic victories in 2008 and 2012. Polls suggest that Hillary Clinton may be the first Democratic presidential candidate for at least 60 years to win a majority of white voters with college degrees….

Before McGovern, Barry Goldwater also got thrashed and transformed his party in the process. Goldwater lost 44 states on a platform of huge tax cuts, pouring weedkiller on the federal government, opposition to civil rights and confronting communism abroad. “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice,” he told the 1964 convention in Daly City, California.

Voters disagreed, and not even a powerful televised speech made in support of Goldwater by Ronald Reagan, then a TV presenter, could persuade them otherwise. The future for Goldwater’s ideas did not look bright. “The election has finished the Goldwater school of political reaction,” wrote Richard Rovere in the New Yorker, reflecting the consensus of what would now be called the mainstream media but then was simply known as the press. It could hardly have been more wrong. [more]

Ravel: Free State and Federal Cases Online

by Bill Hayes

Ravel is digitizing all U.S. case law and presenting in on the Internet for free. Thus far, California’s cases on available online. More to come.