Mid-term elections: Faculty experts provide their analysis

A number of critical issues will be determining factors in this year's mid-term elections: the economy, the border and immigration, unemployment, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care, the oil spill and more. The University of Texas at Austin has recruited its faculty experts to analyze, examine and provide their perspectives on these topics through a month-long series of articles and videos.

Each week day during October, faculty members will discuss local, state and national political issues in anticipation of the upcoming mid-term elections in November.

Oct. 29: What would mark success for the Tea Party?
By Sean Theriault
Associate Professor, College of Liberal Arts

The election polls this season are coming to end as early voters in many states are casting ballots. Even before the results roll in, I offer some thoughts on what will constitute a successful night for the Tea Party.

At this point, pundits are mostly talking about the eight states with election contests that still remain exceedingly close according to the polls. The Tea Party candidates who defeated establishment Republican candidates in the primaries are featured in three of the races (Kentucky, Colorado and Nevada). In five other states, Tea Party candidates also defeated the establishment candidate. In three of those states (Utah, Florida and Alaska), the polls indicate that a Republican will win. In two states (Delaware and Connecticut), Tea Party candidates are behind.

If Sharron Angle (Nevada), Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Ken Buck (Colorado) win in the exceedingly close races, the Tea Party will have completed a hugely successful 2010 election season. Such an assessment, however, contains three relatively huge asterisks.

Read more about election night for the Tea Party candidates...

More election posts from Sean Theriault:


Oct. 28: Elections: The day after
By Robert Jensen
Professor, School of Journalism

Nov. 2 is going to be a big day in our political lives.

But Nov. 3 will be far more important.

On mid-term election day, voters will choose between candidates with different positions on health care insurance, withdrawal from Afghanistan and CO2 levels that drive global warming. The politicians we send to the legislatures and executive offices will make -- or avoid making -- important decisions. Our votes matter.

But election day is far from the most important moment in our political lives. The radical changes necessary to produce a just and sustainable society are not on the table for politicians in the Republican or Democratic parties, which means we citizens have to commit to ongoing radical political activity after the election.

Read more about the importance of a radical citizens' agenda on Nov. 3...

More election posts from Robert Jensen:


Oct. 28: What will fix the health care system?
By Ronen Avraham

Thomas Shelton Maxey Professor in Law, School of Law

In three previous posts I discussed how the main cost drivers of the health care system are underuse, misuse and overuse. Those posts explain why I do not think the Democrats' Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or the Republicans' tort reform can actually fix the health care system. The PPACA targets primarily underuse (by increasing access to the uninsured). Tort reform targets primarily overuse (by targeting defensive medicine). Yet, the only real way to cure the system is a comprehensive reform which addresses holistically all three cost drivers.

To finish this series of posts, I would like to propose one such holistic regime. A market-based system of private regulators, along with a few small alterations to the existing legal landscape, could create the environment which would allow all of the parties to act in favor of their own interests, and at the same time advance society's interests.

Read more about comprehensive health care reform...

More election posts from Ronen Avraham:


Oct. 26: Are African Americans having voters' remorse, and what will that mean on election day?
By Paula Poindexter
Associate Professor, School of Journalism

Has the pride in the historic election of the first African American president of the United States given way to voters' remorse? Were African Americans shaking their collective heads in agreement with an African American woman who recently said to President Barack Obama during a CBNC-sponsored town hall meeting that she was "exhausted" defending him and the "mantle of change"? A chief financial officer and veteran, Velma Hart said to the 44th president: "I'm deeply disappointed."

Although President Obama is not on the ballot in 2010, his record is, and it is that two-year record that has led to at least one dissatisfied African American voter. Making history can feel good for only so long. A self-described member of the middle class with two children in private school, Hart expressed concern that her family's middle class lifestyle was in jeopardy. If there are more African Americans like Velma Hart, what will that mean for the 2010 mid-term election?

Read more about African American voters and the 2010 elections...

More election posts from Paula Poindexter:


Oct. 26: Does wanting to vote for a candidate affect whether you think they'll win?
By Arthur Markman

Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing, College of Liberal Arts

We're getting close to the election now. If you watch TV on election night, you're guaranteed to see the same images that we have seen in election coverage in the past. Supporters and campaign workers for the two main candidates gather in an auditorium. There are streamers and balloons. As the election returns start to come in, one group gets more excited while the other group stares dejectedly at the TV monitors. The sadness seems enhanced by the sense that supporters of the losing candidate really thought there was a reasonable chance they were going to win the election.

In this age of polling, how could supporters of both major candidates in an election each think they were likely to win the election?

A paper in the January 2010 issue of Psychological Science by Zlatan Krizan, Jeffrey Miller and Omesh Johar examines the factors that lead supporters of a candidate to believe that their candidate is going to win.

Read more about how preferences increase optimism about future outcomes...

More election posts from Arthur Markman:


Oct. 25: The last men standing
By Sherri Greenberg

Lecturer, Center for Politics and Governance Fellow, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Incumbents Chet Edwards and Ciro Rodriguez face a difficult battle during the upcoming election in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Find out how Republican-led redistricting could make or break the political careers of these two Texas Democrats.

Watch a video on the races for these two House seats...

More election posts from Sherri Greenberg:


Oct. 20: Are social media and politics hitting the mark for young voters?
By Bill Minutaglio

Clinical Professor, School of Journalism

I was a bit startled recently to hear from an erudite, enlightened group of graduate students that only a few of them were addicted to getting their daily dose of substantive news through social media. Some of them said they did indeed share news through Twitter and Facebook, but not many in this particular group routinely went to those venues as their everyday source of news.

It was, like a lot of things, "situational."

If there was something electric, some thunderclap (like the sad events that unfolded when a shooter appeared on campus) then, yes, folks did flock to social media: Rumors AND facts were moving at warp speed and social media was all-pervasive, a common medium, the digital town crier.

But then when I asked a few students if they were following the here-and-now political races (those local and statewide contests that will decide and define many important matters, including the chances of President Barack Obama advancing any of his mid-term initiatives) through the bytes emerging seemingly every minute in social media forums, they were almost uniform in agreement.

Read more about young voters and social media...

More election posts from Bill Minutaglio:


Oct. 18: Staying on top of local elections is only a mouse click away
By Natalie (Talia) Stroud
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies; Assistant Director, Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation

It's mid-term time again -- not only for students at The University of Texas at Austin, but also for the nation. Keeping in the spirit of mid-terms, let me challenge you with a short quiz:

  1. Can you identify at least one of the following people: Christine O'Donnell, Meg Whitman or Sharron Angle?
  2. Would you be able to identify your local congressional representative and his or her opponent?
  3. Would you be able to identify your local state representative and his or her opponent?

If you answered yes to all three questions, bravo!

If you answered no to all three questions: Get thee to the nearest news source!

If you answered yes to the first, but no to the second or the third, I suspect that you are not alone. In fact, I'm willing to bet that there are a lot of others just like you. Why? I think it has something to do with the news media.

Read more about the news media and local races...

Read more election posts from Talia Stroud:


Oct. 13: The effect of corporate cash on the 2010 elections
By Steve Bickerstaff

Adjunct Professor, School of Law

The upcoming elections are the first time that corporate funds can be legally used to expressly advocate the election or defeat of specific candidates.

Earlier this year, a five-judge majority of the United States Supreme Court held that corporations have the same right as natural citizens to spend money to expressly advocate the election or defeat of political candidates. In order to rule in this manner, this majority found it necessary to take the extraordinary steps of overruling precedent, disregarding the issues developed in the courts below, ignoring the requests of all of the parties to the litigation (no party asked that the ban on corporate campaign expenditures be declared unconstitutional) and conducting a special hearing on the validity of the federal ban. This majority of the Court could easily have given the appellants the relief that they requested without insisting on such a hearing or ruling, or could easily have fashioned relief in 2010 that allowed Congress an ample opportunity to act.

Read more about corporations funding campaigns...


Oct. 11: Gauging the mood of the voters
By Bruce Buchanan

Professor, Department of Government, College of Liberal Arts

How are the voters doing this mid-term season? It's a question not often asked, but it is worth raising because intentionally or not, voters create most of the incentives that influence the candidates and the news media. Here are some examples of how incentives are working in 2010.

1. Some polls show that pluralities think Democrats have better ideas for fixing most problems than Republicans, yet the same polls show that more voters plan to support Republican candidates in the mid-term elections. Why? History suggests that angry voters think it's more important to punish incumbents for perceived or actual incompetence than to chart the way forward.

Read more about voter incentives...


Oct. 11: Dueling interviews in the governor's race
By James Henson

Lecturer, Department of Government; Director, Texas Politics Project

This Friday, the Texas Tribune, KUT and KLRU will collaborate to stage and webcast separate live interviews with Rick Perry and Bill White from The University of Texas at Austin campus. The creativity and openness evident in the approach to distributing the content being created here is a positive development for politics. It is also a response to changes in the interplay of politics and media that, for all their inevitability, are much more ambiguous.

These interviews come in response to an impasse between the Perry and White campaigns. (Warning: If you're frustrated by politics, what follows isn't going to help.)

Read more about the Perry-White interviews...

More election posts from James Henson:


Oct. 8: The economy is the crux of November's elections
By Michael Brandl

Senior Lecturer, McCombs School of Business

In the 1992 presidential election race the Clinton camp mocked President George H.W. Bush's inability to understand his falling popularity with the memorable phrase "it's the economy, stupid." It is funny how history has a nasty way of repeating itself. In this fall's election season that phrase could be repeated again and again. It helps to explain why voters on both the left and the right are mad.

Pundits on the right complain that a government "takeover" of the economy is under way while the economy falls apart. Meanwhile pundits on the left complain that "not enough" is being done to help the unemployed and the poor in our society. At the same time incumbents argue that the "Great Recession" would have been even worse if not for the policies they enacted during the financial crisis and thus they should be re-elected.

Read more about the economy and this fall's elections...


Oct. 4: Of health insurance, tea parties, babies and bathwater
By Diana DiNitto

Cullen Trust Centennial Professor in Alcohol Studies and Education and University Distinguished Teaching Professor, School of Social Work

Americans are sharply divided over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and related legislation, which are being used as a wedge in this fall's elections. The legislation is the major "policy punctuation" or change in health insurance legislation since 1965 when Medicare and Medicaid were enacted.

Sizeable majorities of House and Senate Republicans voted for the Social Security Act of 1935 (the cornerstone of the nation's social welfare policy), and 50 percent of Republicans in the House and 40 percent in the Senate voted for Medicare in 1965, but not one Republican voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, despite the benefits it will provide.

Read more about affordable health care...


Stay tuned throughout October for more faculty analysis on the historic mid-term elections.