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Due – The first day of classes: September 7 th , 2012 The 2010 congressional elections were historic in many ways. Elements of that election will provide the basis for much of what we will be discussing this year as far as the role of the media, primaries, parties, and interest groups. To get a start, the summer reading book is Pendulum Swing edited by Larry Sabato. (ISBN: 0205098924) The book contains a series of essays on various aspects of the congressional elections. If you haven’t paid close attention to political news in the past couple of years, this book will provide you with a foundation for understanding electoral politics as well as examples that we will be using all year long in A.P. Government. Please purchase Pendulum ASAP. There are used copies on Amazon. Before class begins, you will also need to purchase The Lanahan Readings in American Polity, 5 edition, which will be required reading for the course. There are three parts to this assignment. Make sure you do all three. A. Read Chapters One through Eight except for Chapter Four Once you have purchased the book, read it, taking notes on each chapter. Your notes should lead to a concise paper addressing the questions below in a cogent manner. For each chapter, here are the topics that you should be paying particular attention to as you read and should be addressing in your notes. Do not simply copy from the book. We want to see your own words. Chapter One: Pendulum Swing by Dr. Larry J. Sabato 1. What is the relationship between midterm elections and popular opinion of the president in power? What reasons are there not to regard midterm elections as a referendum on how people think the president is doing? 2. Identify the reasons why the party of the president tends to lose congressional seats in midterm elections. 3. As you read through the data on pp. 9 – 22, what are two conclusions or observations you can make about this electoral history? 4. Why are the results in the state legislatures and gubernatorial (governors) races so critical to politics in the next decade? 5. What differences were there in voter turnout between 2008 and 2010? 6. Look at the exit poll results on pp. 36 – 42. Pick out three results that you think help explain the election results in 2010 and explain in one or two sentences why you chose those results. Chapter Two: “Right Turn: The 2010 Midterm Elections” by Dr. Alan I. Abramowitz 1. Explain why the 2010 elections were predictable, based on historic voting patterns. 2. What are three major explanations for why the president’s party almost always loses seats in midterm elections? 3. How are the exposure factor and the national political climate responsible for the outcome of midterm elections? 4. How did the Tea Party movement influence the 2010 elections? 5. What did evidence from the 2010 exit polls reveal about the voters who turned out in the midterm elections?
AP Government & Politics Pendulum Swing: Edited by Larry Sabato
6. What are the implications of the 2010 midterm elections? Chapter Three: “The Battle for the Senate: The Republicans Fall Short” by Rhodes Cook 1. Describe the make-up of the 111 Congress (2009-2010). How did the numbers of Democrats and Republicans shift during that time? 2. How did the tide turn in January 2010, when two seasoned Democratic Senators announced their decision not to run for reelection? 3. Describe the events from Spring 2010 to November 2010 that made for a “volatile political year.” Chapter Five: “Bringing Down the House: Reliving the GOP’s Historic House Gains” by Isaac T. Wood 1. Discuss three reasons why the Republicans won electoral victories in the midterm elections. 2. What was the Republican message in 2010? 3. What groups funded the Republican candidates, according to the information on page 90? 4. As you read pages 91-98, write down several Democrat losses and Republican gains. Also, pay close attention to the regional gains/losses discussed on pages 97-98 – explain these wins and losses in New England, the South, the West, and the Midwest. 5. How did “redshirt freshmen”, women, first-time candidates, and African Americans fare in the 2010 midterm elections? Chapter Six: “Money Worries: Campaign Financing and Spending in the 2010 Elections” by Dr. Michael Cornfield 1. So, what is “the big deal with Citizens United?” What did the decision mean for campaign spending? 2. Why does Dr. Cornfield write that it is “practically impossible” to determine “Whether one can buy an election victory”? (p. 120) Chapter Seven: “The Impact of the Federal Election Laws on the 2010 Midterm Election” by Michael E. Toner and Karen E. Trainer 1. What has been the trend in the role of political parties in elections? 2. How did the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law alter politics? Since it was enacted and since the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, what has happened with outside, independent groups and elections? 3. What are Super PACS and what has been their role in elections? 4. Briefly describe the role of the Internet in fundraising in 2010. 5. How does early-voting change political campaigns? Chapter Eight: “Midterm Media Explosion” by Dr. Diana Owen 1. What have been the trends in the development of the media and how it covers elections? 2. Summarize the trends in how the following outlets cover elections: local and national news outlets and the new media. 3. Why didn’t avoiding the press work as a campaign strategy? B. Read any two of the remaining chapters: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, or 25.
After you’ve read your two chosen chapters, write up a summary of how the senatorial election battles in those two states support or refute the generalizations about the elections that you read in the first eight chapters. Then explain, in your own words, why the senatorial races in those states turned out the way they did. Use specific information to support your analysis. We are most interested in the senatorial campaigns, since this class focuses on national government and politics, not state-level. So you can simply skim the sections on the races for governor. C. Following Current Events – Article Analysis A lot of the curriculum of this course involves making connections between what is going on in current events today and the broader theories and trends that we’ll be talking about in American government and politics. Please get in the habit of following the news whether through TV, the radio, newspapers and magazines, or Internet sites. Pay attention to stories concerning the disputes in Washington and the lead-up to the 2012 election. These are all topics that will provide the examples for the broader concepts that we will discuss this year. You will be more successful in the class if you are familiar with what is going on in current events. As you’re following political news, find a meaty and substantive article that analyzes either election prospects for 2012 or the political situation today between the parties in Washington, D.C. Then write up an analysis that connects what you have read in the article to what you learned from Pendulum Swing. Use specific information from the article to support your generalizations. One method to find an article that will help you more easily complete this assignment is to go to http://news.google.com/ and plug in some of the key terms or concepts from the book. Your analysis will probably be about one page, double-spaced. You will be graded on the substantive connections that you can make. Attach your article to your assignment when you turn it in. If you have any questions email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Task Answers to the questions that indicate you understand the point and have put that information into your own words. Summaries of the two chapters plus your explanations of why the senatorial races turned out the way they did. Your summaries should use specific information to support your analysis. Analysis of a current events article and how it connects to what you read in Pendulum Swing. Your analysis should include specific information supporting your generalizations, Total Points 60
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