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Passed in 1965 during the height of the Civil Rights movement, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) changed the face of the American electorate, dramatically increasing minority voting, especially in the South. While portions of the Act are permanent, certain provisions were set to expire in 2007. Reauthorization of these provisions passed by a wide margin in the House, and unanimously in the Senate, but the lopsided tally hid a deep and growing conflict. The Most Fundamental Right is an effort to understand the debate over the Act and its role in contemporary American democracy. Is the VRA the cornerstone of civil rights law that prevents unfair voting practices, or is it an anachronism that no longer serves American democracy? Divided into three sections, the book utilizes a point/counterpoint approach. Section 1 explains the legal and political context of the Act, providing important background for what follows; Section 2 pairs three debates concerning specific provisions or applications of the Act; while Section 3 offers commentaries on the previous chapters from attorneys with widely divergent viewpoints.
Beginning in 1876, the Supreme Court systematically dismantled both the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment and what seemed to be the right to vote in the Fifteenth. And so a half million African Americans across the South who had risked their lives and property to be allowed to cast ballots were stricken from voting rolls by white supremacists.
Friedenberg examines William Henry Harrison's first ever speech by an American presidential candidate on behalf of his own candidacy as a prelude to the detailed examination of notable contemporary campaign speeches. Key speeches by John F. Kennedy, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and George W. Bush are analyzed.
Tight political races with their emotionally charged debates, mud-slinging, and uncertain outcomes are stressful for voters and candidates alike, but that stress may be healthy for democracy. In Competitive Elections and the American Voter, Keena Lipsitz argues that highly contested electoral battles create an environment that allows citizens to make more enlightened decisions. The first book to use democratic theory to evaluate the quality of campaign rhetoric, Competitive Elections and the American Voter offers a rare overview of political contests at different levels of government. Lipsitz draws on a range of contemporary democratic theories, including egalitarian and deliberative conceptions, to develop campaign communication standards. To promote the values of political competition, equality, and deliberation Lipsitz contends that voters must have access to abundant, balanced information, representing a range of voices and involving a high level of dialogue between the candidates. Using advertising data, the book examines whether competitive House, Senate, and presidential campaigns operating at the state level generate such facts and arguments. It also tests the connection between this knowledge and greater voter understanding and engagement. Because close elections can push candidates to attack their opponents, the book investigates how negative advertising affects voters as well. Given the link between electoral competitiveness and an informed electorate, the book includes reform proposals that enhance competition. Competitive Elections and the American Voter reminds us that we avoid political controversy and conflict at our peril. This eye-opening analysis of political communication and campaign information environments encourages citizens, scholars, and campaign reformers to recognize the crucial role that well contested elections play in a democracy.
On the night of the 2000 presidential election, Americans watched on television as polling results divided the nation's map into red and blue states. Since then the color divide has become symbolic of a culture war that thrives on stereotypes--pickup-driving red-state Republicans who vote based on God, guns, and gays; and elitist blue-state Democrats woefully out of touch with heartland values. With wit and prodigious number crunching, Andrew Gelman debunks these and other political myths. This expanded edition includes new data and easy-to-read graphics explaining the 2008 election. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State is a must-read for anyone seeking to make sense of today's fractured political landscape.