Monday, February 23, 2009

Outline of Moral Politics - Lakoff

1. What is the basic questions: Lakoff’s basic question that he is trying to answer is what divides conservatives and liberals when they are talking about politics, and how does this division relate back to metaphors we use to explain life.
2. What are the key themes, arguments and findings:
a. Themes:
i. Conservatives use the strict father model of family
ii. Liberals use the nurturing family model
iii. These family models directly relate to the metaphors that people use to explain and understand politics – and shape their own opinions.
iv. Without understanding the different models, you cannot understand the various political positions that people take.
1. He doesn’t use neutral terminology as you read. When you read his descriptions, the feeling you get about the Strict Father is that it is bad, dark and negative – mainly because he doesn’t associate a lot of positives with it. Whereas the feeling after reading the nurturing family model is more positive and rosy.
b. Arguments:
i. Lakoff argues that which family model you use defines your political choices.
ii. The two family models cannot be intertwined, and there are only a few deviations from these central models.
iii. Conservative and liberal “family models” relate directly to Republican and Democrats – although I would change this and say that they relate to the Religious Right and the Far Left.
iv. Whichever family model you choose, you also receive the associated metaphors – which explain various attitudes on various social, economic and moral issues.
v. You can use more than one family type in your life – just not more than one in each portion of your life.
1. I think he’s wrong here. I think that people can use the Strict Father model for most politics, but then use the Nurturing family model for social issues.
c. Findings:
i. He uses the metaphors that arise out of each type of family to explain how conservatives and liberals – really R’s and D’s – explain and see each issue (framing).
3. How was the argument constructed:
a. The argument was constructed using social cognitive theory: which says that underlying all the arguments is “common sense” or a way that people view the world which may be unconscious but is still a deliberate and distinctive model.
b. His theory, as he says (p.17) must explain:
i. Analysis of mode of reasoning
ii. How those models of reasoning fit together
iii. How different forms of each model are really related to the same model (radial categories and central categories)
iv. Show the link between forms of political reasoning and forms of moral reasoning (which he does through his metaphors)
v. How moral reasoning in politics is ultimately based on models of the family
vi. Must show how the models fit together – and why we don’t have random political thinking.
4. How does this advance our knowledge of the topic: This book advances one possible view into how to relate ideas between conservatives and liberals because if you understand where someone is reasoning from, you can more accurately fit your words into their “frames” and so work with them, rather than have them simply throw out your ideas because they do not fit their world view.
5. How do this week’s readings fit with other week’s: Last week’s readings were on characteristics that are particular to conservatives and liberals, although it was more of “these are the characteristics” rather than “these are the characteristics and here is how they are used in politics.” This week’s reading was also about particular characteristics of liberals and conservatives – the model of family that each uses and how if affect their political thought.
6. What is missing? How do current/recent events fit with the topic: I think what is missing is explaining how you get Libertarians, or people who combine aspects of both – who use the strict father model but then use Liberation theology or some other liberal social theory. Also missing is any conception of why these models might not hold, or how personality can overcome the model (Obama election et al).
7. What interesting issues, ideas or related findings came to your mind as you were reading:
a. How would both sides respond to the bailout in Lakoff’s idealized world?
b. How would both sides respond to the California budget situation?
i. Raising taxes
ii. Cuts
iii. Banking on federal bailout money
c. Why do these fit so well together, and why do people think that there cannot be a combination of the two to create a new model?
d. Why are the ideas presented as mutually exclusive?

Ch. 1 – The Mind and Politics
- Contemporary politics is about worldview.
- The political division between red/blue (Republican/Democrat – not conservative/liberal as he writes) is based on morality.
- Morality is based on the type of family model you have – Structure (Strict father) vs. Nurturance (Nurturing model).
- These models explain what conservatives and liberals call “common sense,” which is simply ideas based at such a deep level that people may not be aware of it.
Ch. 2 – The Worldview Problem for American Politics
Raises questions to be answered about conservative and liberal ideologies; questions each side has about each other; what positions “group” together to be liberal and conservative.
- Why do conservatives think that virtue and morality should be indentified with their political agenda and what view of morality do they profess?
o Conservatives don’t conceptualize regulation as a form of protection – only interference.
- Liberals also hold contradictory positions (Lakoff presents this as a series of questions and not as a morality puzzle (which is just part of his mistreatment of the two) although liberals also hold moral positions on their issues).
- So what cognitive scientists do is:
o Satisfy 2 conditions with a theory: (1) the worldviews must make the collections of political stands on each side into two natural categories; (2) descriptions for these two categories must show why, what is a puzzle for one side isn’t for the other.
o Also must explain the topic choice, word choice and discourse forms for liberals and conservatives.
- Basic claim of the book – morality comes from family, so morality in politics comes from family.
Ch 3 –
The basis for all metaphors in morality.
- Political perspectives are derived from morality – which is derived from your family model.
- Moral action causes good things.
- Immoral action causes ill-being or hurt.
- It is how you characterize hurt and good that makes your morality.
Ch 4- Keeping the Moral Books (Moral Accounting)
The most basic metaphor for morality.
- The most basic way we understand morality is through accounting metaphors – I owe you, you owe me, I am in your debt, they wrote a check they cannot cash etc.
- The metaphor: Well-Being as Wealth.
- Types of moral accounting
o Reciprocation – you do something for me I owe you and visa-versa.
o Restitution – you do something bad, you need to do something good to account for it
o Retribution (lawful authority) and Revenge (unlawful authority or personal) – you do something to me and I am going to do something equally bad to you.
- You can gain “moral credit” with altruism – you do something good without getting anything in return.
- Metaphors for work (54-55)
- Metaphors for rights and duties (56-59)
- Fairness (59-62)
Ch 5-Strict Father Morality
Strict Father model.
- Background view: life is difficult and the world is fundamentally dangerous.
- Assumption: That the exercise of authority is moral in and of itself
o So if someone isn’t exercising authority morally, the metaphor breaks down.
- Reward and punishment are necessary because you need them to be self-disciplined and controlled.
- What kind of moral world?
o Meritocracy (based on how hard you work – concept of the American Dream)
o Hierarchy (based in authority)
- Responsibilities of those in authority (p. 70)
- Related metaphors (p.71)
- Moral Strength (72)
o Built two ways: through self-discipline to meet your hardships and difficulties and through self-denial to further self-discipline
o Metaphor of moral strength
§ Being good is being upright
§ Being bad is being low
§ Doing evil is falling/failing
§ Evil is a force
§ Morality is strength
- He uses morality as if it is a dirty word – which it isn’t
- Structure of system – p. 99
- Priorities in system:
o Moral strength
o Moral self-interest
o Moral nurturance
Ch 6-Nurturant Parent Model
Nurturing parent model.
- Model – p. 109
- Morality as empathy, nurturance
- Priorities in system
o Nurturance group
o Self-interest group
o Strength group
o Notice the variation in terms from the SFM
Ch 7-Why We Need A New understanding of American Politics
Why such an analysis is needed and where previous analysis has failed.
- Three analytical failures of liberals
o Conservative is the ethos of selfishness
o Conservatives just believe in less government
o Conservatism is a conspiracy of the ultra-rich
- Three principal conservative descriptions of conservatism
o Against big government
o For traditional values
o What the Bible tells us
Ch 8- Nature of the Model
Explanitory nature of the model.
- Based on the ‘Nation as Family metaphor”
o Nation is a family
o Government is parents
o Citizens are children
Ch 9-
Moral categories brought about by the two systems.
- Conservatives have moral actions, ideal citizen and demons
- Liberal have moral actions, ideal citizens and demons
Ch 10- Social Programs and taxes
Ch 11- Crime and Punishment and Death Penalty
Ch 12 – Regulation and Environment
Ch 13- Culture Wars: Affirmative Action and the Arts
- Gay rights
- Standards
- education
Ch 14- Two models of Christianity
- strict father Christianity
- nurturing parent Christianity
Ch 15- Abortion
Ch 16- Love Country, hate government
Ch 17- Varieties of Liberals and Conservatives
Variations within the conservatives and liberals.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Governors and Accountability

The reading from Niemi, Stanley and Vogel (Niemi) focused on what holds Governors accountable for the actions within their individual states. Niemi found that the economic stability and growth – or lack there of – did have an effect on the ability of the Governor to (1) run for reelection and (2) win their reelection. Additionally Niemi found that there was a correlation between tax policy and the way in which the Governor was perceived.
Niemi started with the interesting point of whether the Governors whose states were in decline or who had enacted high taxes even ran for reelection. Their contention was that if these Governors did not run for reelection there was no way for the voters to hold the Governors accountable because the voters wouldn’t have the option of voting for or against the particular Governor. Luckily, their study found that Governors, more often than not, run for reelection.
In the conclusion of Niemi’s study, they found that their original hypothesis was correct all along – that the tax policy and economy of the state matter in the reelection of the Governor. Basically, they found that whether at the state or national level, people tend to vote their pocketbooks. This runs contrary to the previous studies which have become widely accepted in political science today.
The Bernick article focused on the tools that the Governors use to do their jobs, rather than by what measure will the electorate hold them responsible for doing their jobs. Bernick found that there are two major classes of tools – those that are formal, and those that are informal. Among the formal tools are the line-item veto, budget preparation and appointment power. Among the informal powers are those related to relationships between the legislators and the Governor, media presence, popular support, and being the leader of his/her party. The study posited that the informal tools were more powerful than the formal tools. However the results are that they are about equal.
However, these results were from a very small survey population and did not occur over time. Rather the survey was a snap-shot in time and place, as not all places participated in the survey; however it makes for a good snapshot of powers. Especially the role and place of the line-item veto power for the Governor.
The Abney and Lauth article was abut the item veto and fiscal responsibility of the Governor. They found that the impact varies by the type of item veto and by the level of usage of the item veto. Governors who have the ability to item-veto tend to use it to reduce budgetary items and delete narratives in order to promote fiscal responsibility. However, fiscal responsibility is defined as an ability to control spending in an overall sense and to reduce spending on programs deemed undesirable by the governors. It was important that in order for the veto to have any power, the governor must use it. A governor with only narrative deleting power was less likely to use the power than one with item reduction and elimination power. Abney and Lauth indicate that we must view the veto as a whole, and as varied by institution, rather than as a group of powers that are the same across institutions.
These articles combined to discuss the power of the Governor. The Niemi article, while about reelection trends and economic/taxation trends, also speaks to the power of the governor involved. The people track economic decisions and taxation policy back to the governor because that is where it can be traced backed to as an origin point. That the governors be held accountable for using their power is only understandable and logical.
Additionally, the Bernick article spoke on the various formal and informal powers of the governors and how important those powers are. It was not, necessarily, about the use of those powers. Although for the respondents to the survey to determine what was important, they had to have been seen to be used in some manner or else they would not be important.
Lastly the Abney and Lauth article was speaking as to the importance of a single power – the item veto – and how that power can be used to further the agenda of the governor and the state as a whole.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Development and Neglect in State Politics

These articles were written approximately 12 years apart, and provide an indicator of the progress, or lack thereof, made within the field of state politics.
In Jewell’s article, “The Neglected World of State Politics” (1982), he mentioned that there was not enough state research being done. There was no unifying theory. The field lacked data, access to current and relevant data, and comparative studies, according to Jewell. Jewell also stated that there were several weaknesses of the current generation of state scholars, including; lack of relationship between scholars and actual practitioners in the state and the focus on methodological and numerical studies.
Jewell’s article also makes some broad sweeping statements such as “Legislatures have changed even more dramatically, with less turn-over in membership (page 639),” and:

“The levels of party competition have increased in most of the states, and now there is evidence that the outcome of state elections is affected less by traditional party loyalties and more by the abilities of candidates and the skills and resources that they bring to campaigns.” Id.

When I first was reading these statements I couldn’t help but disagree with Jewell from my own perspective in California. The Legislature here turns over more than it did in 1982 because of term limits. In fact, the newest class of Legislators in the Legislature is the group with the least experience in the state Legislature ever. Additionally, party politics has grown in California, with the Democratic and Republican party being the two big elephants in the room. Then I realized that I was at fault for one of the other weaknesses in Jewell’s article – the lack of ability to look outside the state and make comparisons between one state and another, and to form a unifying theory out of those comparisons.
Twelve years later Paul Brace and Aubrey Jewell wrote an article on the state of state political research. Their article also lamented that there was no unifying theory in state political research. They state that the field could benefit from a unifying theory in three ways: 1)integrate the various studies of state politics; 2) reconcile research concerning macro-level outcomes with theories and findings concerning micro-level behavior; and 3) capitalize on the unique comparative and contextual analytical strengths state political research could embody.
This later study noticed that there was more empirical work with sound methodology than there was a year before. Additionally, the same areas that tended to get national attention gained attention in the state political arena. One example of this is elections. In the national arena there is a lot of attention and research done on elections and electoral behavior. During the period of this article, there were also a lot of state level election and electoral behavior studies.
However, Bruce and Jewett argue that these studies, while useful, suffer from a lack of comparison and unification. In this argument, that there is a lack of comparison and unification in state political research, the earlier and later articles are united.
Jewell and Bruce/Jewett are also in agreement on the need for insight into the political life. Jewell argued that one of the strengths of a state political researcher is the knowledge of the subject – the actors – at the state level. Bruce and Jewett also agree, and cite the large number of good papers which stem from the APSA Congressional Fellowship as an example. Jewell states that such knowledge of the actors is necessary, and Bruce and Jewett seem to agree. Bruce and Jewett note that there is not a state internship program where this type of interplay between the actors and scholars is at work.
However, I again direct them to California. There is a California Assembly, Senate, Executive and Judicial fellowship program run by Sacramento State. This fellowship program places Master’s level students into an actual office in one of the three branches of choice. These fellows then interact with the member whose office they work in on a regular basis, and attend lunches with all the members on a regular basis. It would seem that this type of interaction would produce the quality “insider” research that is needed. However, from experience, I can tell you that these fellowships are looked at as ways to get a job in the building rather than do meaningful research. The split between practitioners of state politics and researchers of state politics is emphasized in this situation. The researchers need access to the practitioners, not just the other way around.
For all the differences in these two articles, and for the differences in time between their publications, there are two unifying concepts. The first is that there are not enough comparisons done in the fields of state political research. There are too many individual state researchers, rather than comparative researchers. Secondly, there needs to be some unifying theory or principle that can be learned from these studies. These two articles are remarkably unified on these points.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Initiatives and Fiscal Policy

The first article, “Dimensions of State Politics, Economics, and Public Policy,” by Sharkansky and Hofferbert used factor analysis to describe the relationship between various political, policy and socio-economic dimensions. This article was very hard for me to follow, as I do not have a good grounding in factor analysis and all its implications. However, one sentence that struck me as important was in the conclusion.

“While these findings add to the inquiry data political and economic determinants of public policies, they offer little encouragement to those who would seek to expand the level and scope of public services by manipulating one political or structural characteristic of state government.” (879)

This statement seems to address itself to the structural characteristics that were described in the article: voter turn-out, party competition or apportionment. However, this statement could also be used to describe the initiative process, because the initiative process can be described as a structural characteristic of state government. If the information and data that Sharkansky and Hofferbert used is correct, then the statement would seem to be that you cannot change the level and scope of public services by manipulating the initiative process.
That statement seems to be something at Camobreco would agree with. In his article, “Preferences, Fiscal Policies, and the Initiative Process” Camobreco examines whether the initiative process produces fiscal and taxation policies that are closer to the views of the median voter than would be produced in a system without the initiative process. Camobreco, like Sharkansky and Hofferbert, is trying to find a tie between the political, policy and economic aspects of state government.
Camobreco finds no link between the initiative process and the policy opinions of the median voter when the initiative deals with fiscal or taxation policy. This seems to mirror the findings above. This requires the assumption that changing the level or scope of a public service can be expressed in terms of fiscal and taxation policy. This is clearly a link that Camobreco finds in his study of taxation and fiscal policy burdens and redistribution. So Camobreco studied the initiative process as a structural characteristic of state government. Through those studies he found that there is not a change to the level and scope of public services by manipulating one aspect of a structural characteristic of state government (the initiative process). These two articles are in agreement. An additional point that both articles make is that the status of their theories may depend on what type of policy is being studied.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Institutions, The Economy, and the Dynamic of State Elections by John Chubb

Economic Impact on Elections

There is a story of Bill Clinton and his campaign against Bush Sr. The story goes that in his bus, there was a sign over the door so that he would see it every time that he stepped out of the bus. The sign stated, “It’s the economy stupid.” It was to remind Clinton that although he might not be able to beat Bush Sr. in areas like national defense, he could use the economic downturn to his advantage to beat Bush Sr. and become President.
These articles seem to support that type of inference. In “Institutions, The Economy, and the Dynamic of State Elections,” written by John Chubb, There are three factors at play in the national elections, and therefore in the state elections – coattails, turn out, and the national/state economy. In particular, state election outcomes ebb and flow on the tides of the economy – especially those aspects which are attributable to the state actors (Governor and Legislature for example).
Additionally, the article stated that Presidents, senators and governors all have significant coattails which could be ridden by members of the same party to election. It would seem that this is not the case in the last California election. The down-ticket candidates did not ride on the Governor’s coattails. In fact, more Republican’s lost statewide seats under the coattails of the Governor than won them. It would seem to be that California does not play by the same “coattails” equation as most states would under similar circumstances. Or, it is possible, that this election was an anomaly in the equation due to various factors other than the coattails – or that the coattails of the Governor were an anomaly in this election. As I have not run the data through a filter or equation, I would not be able to tell you.
Additionally, this could be a situation where the coattails were only marginally influential (such as argued by the paper) and therefore there were not enough coattails to make a difference in the elections. Under the data gathered by the paper, an increate in 10% of the vote for either a governor, senator or the President, increases the seats in a lower house by approximately 3.3%. If this is the margin that an increase in voters for the Governor turned out, it is not surprising that there were little Republican wins as the margin of victory for the Democrat opponent was larger than the margin that the coattails would have increased. In fact, the paper goes on to estimate that the gubernatorial coattails are a -2.71% and so the gubernatorial coattails will only help if the candidate is popular to begin with. The Republican candidates were not popular to being with – so it is understandable why there were no coattails of the Governor to ride on in this last election.
One other interesting hypothesis in the article was that state government may be held economically accountable through retrospective voting. This is where the main focus of the article is. It is that the voters will punish and hold state government economically accountable by voting for members of the opposite party or opposite policies if the state does not provide a good economic outlook. This might be seen to be the case in many states, however there is not that type of competition in California. Due to re-districting that has occurred, and the manner in which districts are split up – it is not likely that votes would engage in this type of economic accountability – at least not through elections for persons to be in legislative and executive positions.
Now it is possible that this type of economic accountability would be held in the ballot box regarding policies. And you see this continually. Economic accountability is forced on the elected positions through the initiative process. This creates the certain policy constraints that were spoken of earlier in the paper. However, given the current state of electoral affairs in California, this paper would seem not to apply for the reasons delineated above.