My Topic: My topic covered the 2016 Election. The electoral map changed drastically from 2008 to 2016, on all levels, and I wanted to explore the factors that could explain the shift.
My Essays: For the definition paper, I explain how the map shifted in 2016. I tried to keep this one free of bias, and rather than discussing the political factors that might have played a role in the ultimate result, I specifically tried to stick to the statistics and data regarding the changes on the map (e.g. the vote swing in Macomb County Michigan which was enough to turn the state red).
For the causual paper, I explored the different political and social factors that might have contributed to Donald Trump’s electoral college win. At the end of the day, what really made that happen was a massive number of traditionally Democratic voters who jumped ship to pull the lever for Trump. That alone wasn’t able to do it, though, he still needed high Republican turnout, and despite high unfavorability ratings from members of his own party, he still turned out voters. Factors such as the Supreme Court might have played a role in causing these voters to hold their nose, and push the button, despite their negative feelings for him, or their preference for another candidate (e.g. Rubio, Cruz or Mcmullin).
The proposal essay included my suggestion on how the Democratic party can regain its relevance on Capitol Hill. I think they have to embrace, and learn to appreciate more ideological diversity in their party, i.e. candidates who have more centrist views. Ten years ago, states like Arkansas, North Dakota, and West Virginia were three of the bluest in the country; the issue for the Democrats, though, was the fact that the party leaders and voters in those states had more moderate to conservative views on social issues such as Abortion, which is a key issue to voters in that region. Today, the party has moved leftward, and those moderate senators and governors have either been purged, or were forced to tick left (like Bob Casey did) in order to align themselves with a more progressive party. That shift to the left has turned former moderate blue states into Republican strongholds. In order to take them back, the party needs to change its tune.
All of my research began by looking at interactive electoral/county maps, such as the one included in this post that shows the county vote shifts from 2012 to 2016 (red arrows show a shift in favor of the Republicans, Blue arrows show a shift favorable to Democrats). When looking into the result of an event, the most logical first step, in my eyes at least, would be to analyze the actual event itself. Once I had an understanding of the event, then the factors that contributed to the event would become more apparent and they would become easier to research. After analyzing the maps, I’d take a look at the exit polls for particular states, or the public polling data taken during the campaign. Saying that “Donald Trump’s stance on trade contributed to his victory” would mean nothing if the majority of the voters in the states he flipped didn’t also indicate that in the polling data. Any subjective opinion, or argument I put forth in my papers were reinforced by some type of statistical analysis. When I needed to reference a specific piece of data, or event that occurred, I found an article that covered it and referenced the appropriate passage. The only time I ever relied heavily on an article was for the rebuttal piece, when I had to shoot down an argument I found on vox.
http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president — 2016 interactive electoral map shown on top of the page. Also shows senate/governor/house races)
http://www.cnn.com/election/results/exit-polls/ohio/president — CNN exit polls
http://www.nytimes.com/elections/2008/results/president/map.html — The 2008 interactive map was particularly useful, because it lets you see what the map looked like in past years as well… dating all the way back to 1992.
http://www.gallup.com/poll/183686/democrats-shift-left.aspx — For my proposal essay, when I claim that the Democratic party has veered leftward, there’s actual evidence of that happening over time.
I consider myself to be relatively knowledgable about this topic, so I don’t know how much I learned, but I like to write, and I especially like writing about topics that I like, so I enjoyed this process a whole lot. In terms of my perspective on the topic… our country is very divided right now. Coastal and urban areas are heavily Democratic, while everywhere else is turning redder.
I’d like to see less polarization in politics, I’d like to see more bipartisan cooperation, on and off Capitol Hill. Long gone are the days when Reagan and Tip O’Neill (A very conservative President & very liberal Speaker of the House) could work together in a bipartisan fashion to get legislation passed despite all their disagreements. Today, people can’t even be bipartisan during Thanksgiving. I’d keep going here, with what I’d like to see, but soon enough, I’ll sound like I’m declaring my intention to run for office.
And I’m not quite there yet…