Pacific Political Science Professor Brian E. Klunk is quoted at length about the recurrence of the the “Manchurian Candidate” theme in pop culture and political discourse. It’s the 50th anniversary of the John Frankenheimer classic, featuring Angela Lansbury playing one of film history’s iconic villains.
Here’s a bit of what Klunk had to say:
In the ‘Homeland’ television series right now, there’s a Manchurian candidate kind of character,” Klunk said. “He was a prisoner in Iraq and now is back to carry out terrorist actions on behalf of some enemies.”
The most recent installment of “Battlestar Gallactica” also had a Manchurian candidate, Klunk said, but the notion of an individual in a position of power acting on suggestions because he’s been brainwashed isn’t limited to fiction.
“Over the last two presidential cycles,” Klunk said, “some of the nastier blogs accused John McCain, who’d been a prisoner of war in Vietnam, of being a potential Manchurian candidate. This year, a PAC supporting Ron Paul did the same thing with John Huntsman, who was the ambassador to China and speaks Mandarin. And, it’s all over the place in reaction to President Obama. In more respectable outlets, the use of Manchurian candidate ideas is he’s not really an American, he’s a hidden Muslim and he wants to
impose European social policies that will change forever the character of the country.
A commenter on the last post asked to see the numbers for minor party participation going further back in time, so here’s the graph showing the percentage of districts contested by each of the minor parties. I don’t think the argument changes much–while the 2000 election cycle appears to be a modern high for Libertarian Party participation, the decline still predates Prop. 14. Moreover, the other minor parties (with the exception of the Natural Law Party) have always been down in the low teens at best.
What the chart does offer that is new is another possible culprit for the decline in minor party participation–the 2000-2001 redistricting. This redistricting was incredible. Every incumbent was made safe–so much so that hardly any districts changed partisan hands between 2002 and 2012. Only one congressional district (CA-11, which includes Pacific) switched parties. Perhaps the redistricting so ensured Republican and Democratic dominance within their respective districts that the Libertarian Party found it increasingly difficult to recruit candidates. It’s worth exploring more.
- California’s minor parties facing extinction under new voting system (mercurynews.com)
- This Vote Was A California Landmark (smmirror.com)
Today is the June “primary” in California. I put it in quotation marks because except for the presidency, we don’t really have primaries in California anymore. Thanks to Prop. 14, parties no longer get to pick their nominees for each office. Instead, we have a top two runoff system. The top two vote getters in each contest, regardless of party affiliation, will move on to the November election where voters will only get to choose between those two candidates.
I voted today. Actually I voted yesterday. I just dropped off my ballot today. I am registered permanent vote by mail, which means I receive my ballot in the mail and can send it back in the mail. I dropped it off at my polling place instead, though, since it is on my way to campus. (Unlike at least one of my colleagues, I didn’t have any issues doing so. I was disappointed that I didn’t get my “I voted” sticker like last election, though. Aren’t poll workers wonderful?)
I’m also registered as a Decline to State voter, so I didn’t get to vote in either of the presidential primaries. Neither party lets nominally non-partisan voters like me participate in their contests. Instead, I had to content myself with voting for all of the other federal, state, and local offices (Stockton has a mayoral election this year). I thought long and hard about voting for Orly Taitz (she of Birther fame) for Senate, just to demonstrate that the top two system would not necessarily result in more moderate candidates as its supports believed, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had to vote for someone serious.
In addition to the various offices, there were two ballot initiatives to vote on. I voted for Prop. 28, which would change how term limits work in California. Instead of being able to serve three terms in the Assembly and two in the State Senate, for a total of 14 years in the legislature, legislators could serve 12 years total, with no limits on how many terms can be served in either chamber (other than the maximum of 12 years total of course). My hope is that if it passes, it will make the Assembly a real part of the legislature again rather than the AA team it has become, and, in so doing, make the legislature stronger vis-a-vis the governor and interest groups.
I was ambivalent about Prop. 29, which would impose new cigarette taxes ($1 per pack), mostly for cancer research. I’m all for reducing smoking rates, and I think the evidence is persuasive that taxes like this can affect an individual’s behavior, but I’m not sure that the state (as opposed to the federal government, non-profits, or private industry) ought to be paying for the things Prop. 29 would pay for. Also, my guess is that the money raised will be raided by future legislatures and governors.
What about you? Did you vote?
- New ballot to greet voters in state’s June primary (sfgate.com)
- Will ‘birther’ Taitz be GOP Senate nominee? (totalbuzz.ocregister.com)
- The Initiative Dance Renewed (thepragmaticconservative.wordpress.com)
In 2008, in partnership with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters, a group of faculty from a variety of programs at Pacific designed and executed a voter education campaign. The education campaign had three primary goals: (1) to reduce voter induced error in elections (e.g., improperly marking a ballot), (2) to reduce polling-place induced error in elections (e.g., improperly enforcing regulations), and (3) increasing voter awareness and positive perceptions of voting by mail.
At this year’s Midwest Political Science Association meeting, Prof. Dari Sylvester and I presented an analysis of the campaign’s effects relative to this last goal. The main question was, did knowledge about and positive perceptions of voting by mail increase as a result of the education campaign?
To assess these impacts, we relied on three waves (in May, July, and November) of random telephone surveys of registered voters conducted as part of the broader project. The surveys asked respondents four questions of interest:
- Who can vote by mail?
- How does one sign up for permanent vote by mail?
- Are there any advantages to voting by mail? Respondents were prompted to provide up to three advantages.
- Are there any disadvantages to voting by mail? Again, respondents were prompted to provide up to three responses.
Using these questions we constructed four variables:
- Who: The respondent correctly identified who could vote by mail (everyone)
- How: The respondent correctly identified how to sign up for permanent vote by mail (a variety of ways)
- Convenience: The respondent identified convenience as an advantage to voting by mail
- Net advantages: The number of advantages identified by the respondent minus the number of disadvantages
The table below presents the change in each of these variables over the three survey waves.
There are a couple of important points that come out of this table. First, people already know a lot about voting by mail. Generally, we expect between 10 to 30 percent of respondents to answer recall questions like these correctly. Here, roughly two-thirds of respondents were able to answer these questions correctly and thought of voting by mail as convenient–even before the education campaign began. As such, there wasn’t a whole lot of educating to do about vote by mail.
Second, while we can identify some statistically significant increases in voter knowledge and perceptions over the course of the education campaign, the effects are relatively small. In part, this is because of the relatively high starting values for each variable. At the same time, though, it is also because relatively few people reported exposure to the campaign in the surveys (and many of those that did report exposure likely weren’t exposed to it). Given the limited reach of the campaign, there was very little educating that could be done–even if people didn’t already know a lot.