Cold rain, loud doors, unfriendly voters and wary lawyers. These were a few of the things I had to deal with when covering the the election at the Grand Avenue polling place for the presidential election. An election that saw the reelection of the first African American president, and the election of the first openly gay senator.
I've always found the American election process amazing. It really is mind boggling that every four years we gather together as a nation and try to pull off or prevent a bloodless coup against the ruling party of our government. And even more amazingly, when its over, most Americans drop their aversion to their political rivals and return to their daily lives. With this viewpoint of the American electoral process in mind I made my way to the polling location to watch it happen live.
When I heard that voter turnout n Milwaukee was around 85% I was stunned. Not because of the fact that National turnout rate was around half that. But because the Grand Ave. polling location was really not busy at all. Sure, there were constantly people moving in and out, but there was never any significant line. There very well may have been as many lawyers there at one time working as election observers as there were voters.
The role of the lawyers is an interesting one. There were lawyers there from both political parties, as well as from numerous independent voter advocacy groups. One independent lawyer, who asked not to be named for fear it would affect his job, explained the role of the different groups. "In a very general sense, republicans will try o restrict the vote in cities because it gives them an advantage. Democrats try to make sure everyone votes for the same reason. All the independent groups have a specific issue regarding voting that they are trying to work with." All the lawyers at the polls must have done some good because every observer I talked to thought things were running very smoothly at the Grand Ave. polling location.
I also talked to voters who were leaving the location. The overwhelming majority of them voted for Obama, but the one I talked to who did vote for Romney presented me with an interesting concept. If you vote red in a state that went blue, then you're vote essentially doesn't count. so wouldn't it make more sense to have a pure popular vote rather than an electoral college?
I'll leave you with that thought until next time.
Mike Goush (seated) with poll director Charles Franklin. photo courtesy Alex Rydin
With only a week left until the election, the Marquette Law School gathered together to release its final poll. The numbers predicted an 8 point victory for Obama, and a 4 point victory in the Wisconsin senate race for Tammy Baldwin.
While no poll can ever guarantee a victory for one candidate over another, this is certainly good news for democrats. The Marquette Law poll is considered by many to be accurate, and consistent leads for Obama that have been seen in the poll suggest increased potential for victory in the election Nov. 6.
It should be noted that Obama's 51%-43% lead in the poll is among likely voters. Many polls will simply show a lead among eligible voters, but that doesn't necessarily mean those people will vote on election day. By restricting the sample to those who are most likely to vote, the Marquette Law poll is able to increase the accuracy of its numbers.
There are other numbers in the poll that suggest that Obama will win on election day. The President holds a significant lead among early voters, as well as a lead among independents. The early voting numbers are important, especially to democratic candidates, because it increases the likelihood that low-income people will vote.
Independents always remain an important demographic because they represent the all important "swing voter." Swing voters are the group that will win the election for whichever candidate can convince the most to vote for them.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R–Wis.) spoke about the Federal Budget with Mike Gousha on Tuesday
A few weeks ago former US Senator, and well known progressive democrat, Russ Feingold appeared on "One the Issues" with Mike Gousha. On Tuesday the man who took Feingold's seat appeared on the same show. Ron Johnson is a Tea Party Caucus affiliate of the Republican party, and appeared with Mike Gousha to speak about the federal budget deficit and the economic trouble America is in.
Johnson, a prominent Oshkosh businessman before elected to the senate, campaigned on jobs and responsible economic spending practices. He spent the majority of his time arguing for his proposed approach to the budget deficit. He, presented a powerpoint laden with numbers that argued that President Obama has been a failure as a leader in tough economic times.
He argued that 75% of our $16 trillion national debt was created by Obama and irresponsible democrats during the president's first term. Johnson also argues the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that every person be covered health insurance and completes this country's social safety net, will increase the national debt exponentially over the next 20 years.
The Senator's proposal is that we curb spending immediately and cut taxes for everyone in great rates t grow the economy. He pointed to the Reagan tax cuts and the economic boom of the 1990s as evidence that this would stimulate the economy. He argued that increased economic growth, rather than wealth redistribution, would be better for the country, specifically for the middle class.
Johnson has been criticized for his policies. Having no training as an economist many have argued that he is unprepared to make specific economic statements, pointing out that being a businessman is different from fixing a national economy. To be fair to Johnson however, he was a highly successful businessman
The Panelists for the Nieman round table on New Media and Politics
On Tuesday Oct. 19 a panel of experts ended Marquette's Nieman Conferences by gathering to discuss how "New Media" affects the election, and electoral issues in modern times. The panel focused much of their attention on Twitter and Facebook and how these two social media giants influence campaign coverage.
The panel, moderated by Nieman professor of journalism Bonnie Brennan, was composed of Chioma Uguchukwu, assistant dean of the Diedrich college of communication, Joyce Wolburg, associate dean and professor of advertising, Herbert Lowe, journalism professional-in-residence, teaching assistant Arthur Thomas, and research assistant Hang Lu. All of the panelists are notable for their prolific use of social media.
One of the many topics discussed was the difference between how voters and campaigns utilize social media in the realm of elections. It is no secret that the internet, and Twitter and Facebook in particular, presents an infinite ability to communicate with those who are not normally in your sphere of influence. Campaigns take great advantage of this fact. Every candidate in every election has a Twitter account these days that they use to connect with voters. The grand failure of this is that not every candidate is doing their own tweeting. It is noticeable when a tweet was crafted and sent by an intern, which takes away from the sincerity of the message to an extent.
Voters, for their part, use Twitter in a far different way. They use it as a forum for political discussion with each other. The increased connectivity presented by Twitter allows voters to engage and debate the issues that matter most to them. Unfortunately this almost never happens in a meaningful way. Online debate between people with conflicting views is not often amicable, to say the least. What happens more often than not is people will unfollow, unfriend and block users with conflicting opinions. This constant act leaves our views unchallenged, never advancing the national debate and forcing two sides increasingly further apart.
Another topic that came up was the use of data mining by websites and political campaigns for use of targeting voters. Members of the panel seemed to view this act as an invasion of privacy, believing that what you post on your private Facebook page should not be sold to advertisers and politicians. This view is grossly misinformed. The internet is not a private forum for use, but rather an open stream of information. If you would not feel comfortable yelling personal information and opinions on a crowded city street then you should not feel comfortable posting it online, because the two are the same. If you would not be upset with a friend trying to talk to you about something they knew you would be interested in or trying to sell you something they knew you would buy, then you can not find objection with it being done on the internet.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc) and Vice President Joe Biden will square off Thurs. Oct., 11.
The past week has been a tumultuous one for the incumbent Democratic ticket for the office of the White House. It all started with Barack Obama's poor showing against Mitt Romney in the first POTUS debate last week. Since then, Romney has made significant gains in key wing states according to the latest NBC/WSJ/Marist poll
. All of this adds to the pressure on Vice President Joe Biden to perform Tomorrow night in Kentucky.
The match-up is an interesting one. Even though Ryan is an experienced congressman, this will be the first debate on a truly national stage for the wonky Wisc. GOP superstar. Even though he lacks experience, Ryan is admittedly confidant
. Biden on the other hand is an experienced
debater. Considered to be somewhat of a "bulldog" in political circles, he is willing to do do battle with anyone, anywhere. And his personality isn't one to sit back and take attacks from his opponent like Obama did in his first contest with Romney. If Ryan goes after him and the president, you can believe the "Delaware Dandy" will hit back. One thing that could spell Biden's undoing is his penchant for well timed gaffes.
Interestingly enough, there are some great similarities
between the two candidates. Both came into the congress at very young ages, Biden being elected to the Senate at 29, and Ryan to the House at 28. Both have a history of strong leadership in their respective branch of the Legislature. Both have a near cult-like fanatical support in their home districts, Wisc.'s 1st for Ryan and Delaware – notably Wilmington, Del. – for Biden.Of course there are glaring differences for between the two candidates as well. The biggest being in
political style. Ryan is a numbers guy. Bottom line, brass tax is what matters for him. Biden on the other hand is a natural politician who's wheelhouse is on the baby-kissing circuit. This contrast in personalities and clash of strong wills will lead to an excellent contest on Thurs. night. As far as media coverageof the debate, NBCNews.com
has done an excellent job of preparing readers for the debate. There have been articles on the front page all week, offering insight and analysis into what could go down in Ky. Unfortunately there were only articles, which is never really a problem but it would be nice to see some more varied media in the coverage.
On Thursday, former Senator and Marquette Law School professor Russ Feingold appeared at Eckstein Hall for "On the Issues, with Mike Gousha
." The law-minded liberal statesman from Wisconsin is now running a political action committee called Progressives United
, which focuses on preventing further corporate influence on elections.
The topics of the day seemed to narrow in on two things: US foreign policy, and the Citizens United ruling from 2010. Oh, and the president's performance in the previous night's debate was a hot topic as well. Of course it was. A discussion in the heat of election season between to politically inclined individuals to a room full of (presumably
) intelligent people had to cover an even as important as the presidential debate. That conversation went as expected. Gousha asked about the president's poor performance and Feingold, ever the Democrat, managed to spin it in Obama's favor. Defending Obama by saying things like "He was staying above the frey,"
Feingold turned to attack Romney's economic policies. To be fair, though, Feingold was tough on Obama's on stage demeanor, questioning weather or not he should have spent so much time studying the grain in his podium. More interesting was Feingold's criticism of US foreign policy. As a former member of the US Senate committee
on foreign relations, and the chair of the Subcommittee on African Affairs, Feingold is one of the most well versed in the intricate details of foreign policy. He said that he believes that both sides are politicizing the attacks on US embassies abroad, rather than having real discussions about the topic. He also spoke for some time on the US Drone programs, warning of the dangers of unmanned drone strikes, and the legal ramifications of declaring somebody guilty of crimes against the US without a proper trial. The topic th
at Feingold spoke most passionately on was Citizens United. As many of you remember, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
was a landmark case in which the US supreme court ruled that corporations could not be limited in the money they spend on campaigns. Feingold now leads a pac against this rulling, believing that it was a travesty to the law ad can only lead to coruption on both sides of the aisle. It was a great event.
I have been to a few of these "On the Issues" and have never been disappointed. It will be interesting to see what the next one has in store. I will be attending the event featuring US Senator Ron Johnson on the 23rd, expieriencing vies opposite those of Feingold. Johnson is the man who took Feingold's senate seat in 2010 as an affiliate of the Tea Party. It will be interesting to hear Johnson's views on the same subjects talked about Thursday. They will certainly put the former Senator's in perspective.
Left to right, Eric Ugland moderates the discussion with Ben Tracy, Bonnie Brennan, and Christopher Murray. Photo by Alex Rydin
The Diederich College of Communications and the Les Aspin Center for Government hosted a panel discussion on how mass media is covering the campaigns. This created the perfect opportunity to get out of the classroom and see what other journalists' opinions on the subject are.
The discussion focused primarily on the quality of news coverage in the "22 minutes" a network gets for evening news. Between feel-good human interest stories, sports and world events, there simply isn't enough time to keep the electorate properly informed, which I have argued before is the primary responsibility of fourth estate.
Dr. Brennan, a Nieman Professor of Journalism in the Diederich college, was correct when she made this statement. It is impossible to do your job as a journalist when you only have a few minutes. That is why everyone on the panel argued for a wider range of media consumption by the information consuming public. And with a wider range of media consumption comes the opportunity to cover issues that are less discussed on nightly television news.
Both Dr. Brennan and Ben Tracy, a 5 time Emmy winning CBS National News correspondent, agreed that superpac money has negatively influenced the electoral process. While this is something most people will agree on, its not something that seems to get a lot of media coverage. likely because it is a comparatively boring topic. The average media consumer doesn't want to read or watch or listen to a piece on the ethical and legal implications of allowing large groups of rich men donate exorbitant sums of money to political candidates. But this is something that needs o be covered more often.
Overall I did not like the event. I did not think they delved deep enough into the issues revolving around the media coverage of an election. Instead they briefly mentioned several topics that were on everyone's mind and moved on to questions. I don't mean to stick it to Mr. Ugland, the moderator, but he probably should have had the discussion moving in a more focused direction.
A friend said to me over the summer' "The great irony of political journalism is that journalists are supposed to tell the truth, and its impossible to get that from a politician." I laughed at his joke, although secretly I was bemoaning the truth in that statement.
Politicians don't often tell the truth, and when they do its spun in such a way that its not actually wholly true. The most tragic part of this situation is that journalists often let them get away with this. Not enough fact checking has been in newspapers, and because of this politicians are often let off the hook with the insane claims that they make.
Fortunately the fact-checking website PolitiFact is doing a very good job of holding the feet of our leaders to the metaphorical fire.
Started in 2007 by Tampa Bay Times Washington Bureau chief Bill Adair, Politifact evaluates statements made by political officials and organizations as to their level of factual accuracy, and assigns them a rating on the "Truth-o-meter." This process catches politicians stretching the truth, or flat-out lying, on a daily basis.
Politifact's Truth-O-Meter explains the fallacy in this statement by the President.
What I love about PolitiFact is that they don't just point out that a statement is incorrect, they explain why it is wrong. When a lot of news shows call out their ideological opponents they don't often take this step.
Unfortunately websites such as PolitiFact don't have enough national influence to make politicians wary. At best, they just keep those who read the site informed. Journalists need to start taking a stand in the newspapers as well as online.
Ann Romney, right, is introduced before her speech
Ann Romney appeared at the Marquette old Gymnasium in a routine campaign stop hosted by the Marquette College Republicans. The event, which focused on women, was a stereotypical wife of the candidate campaign stop, with no major implications for the Romney campaign.
Among the speakers,invited to the event was Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who spent a significant portion of time railing against the "liberal media." This is one of the far right talking points that bothers me the most, because I believe it is bad for the country. This "conservative vs. liberal to the death" style of politics is damaging to the country. We saw it with the deficit ceiling debates of last summer, where the two sides couldn't get together long enough to agree to pay their own bills, and ended up downgrading the US's credit rating. This concept of being against the media makes it impossible for the media to fulfill their role as the fourth estate and properly inform the voting population.
Now that I have finished my rant, I can talk about Romney's speech, which was really nothing special. It was exactly what you would expect from a wife of the candidate. She told a few folksy anecdotes about her husband and tried to show omen in the state how Mitt Romney would fight for them. She made routine references to an "Army of Women" in Wi. that would be supporting the Romney/Ryan ticket.
What makes this assertion interesting is the poll numbers that were released the day of the speech. A poll that day had Obama favored by 16 points, 54-38, among women voters in Wi. Perhaps the "Army of Women" is not as large as she let on.
Photo Courtesy Alex Rydin
On Tuesday, the Diederich College of Communication hosted the Burleigh Media Ethics Lecture featuring New York Times journalist David Bornstein. He is an advocate for what he calls solution journalism, or simply reporting on social innovation rather than on hardship and misery, which seems to be the common practice in today's journalism world.
Bornstein said that journalism is great at exposing and killing the bad parts of our society, but far too often fails to accurately promote the good things that promote positive change in our society. He used the metaphor of keeping a human body healthy to explain the two ways that you can promote change. "You have to inhibit disease," which Bornstein says we are already very good at. "And you have to work to create the conditions that boost health," which is where solution journalism becomes so important.
Bornstein also believes there is no economic excuse for not reporting solutions stories. Good solutions stories have recently gone viral on the internet. Bornstein specifically pointed to an article he wrote about the Nurse Family partnership program, which pairs nurses with low income families to oversee the health of a child. That article was one of the most emailed on the New York Times. This is why Bornstein views solution journalism as a market opportunity, rather than a failure of the journalism market.
I for one believe that solutions journalism prevents an interesting light o view a story that I had not previously encountered. Focusing on the "how" of a story rather than the five W's creates an angle that, as Bornstein correctly pointed out, is not covered by many journalists. This opens up a niche in the market that I would like to fill with my stories.