MPSA Roundtable on Congressional Leadership through the Eyes of Randy Strahan and Barbara Sinclair

MPSA Roundtable on Congressional Leadership through the Eyes of Randy Strahan and Barbara Sinclair

Sean M. Theriault of the University of Texas at Austin, chairs this MPSA roundtable session on “Congressional Leadership through the Eyes of Randy Strahan and Barbara Sinclair” with Gregory Koger, University of Miami, Daniel John Palazzolo, University of Richmond, Kathryn Pearson, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, David W. Rohde, Duke University and Matthew N. Green, Catholic University of America. Members of the panel remember the contributions of Randy Strahan and Barbara Sinclair to the field of political science through the sharing of memories and personal reflections and take an early look at congressional leadership in the 115th Congress.

Topics discussed include:

  • Reflections on the lives and careers of Randy Strahan and Barbara Sinclair and their contributions to the study of leadership in a representative body and to the field leadership studies overall.
  • Discussion of Barbara Sinclair’s influence and impact on congressional studies scholarship by women.
  • Recollection of the theoretical insights and perspectives these scholars brought to the study of congressional leadership.

MPSA members can log in to access a variety of recordings from highlighted MPSA conference presentations.

Intrastate Conflicts: Refocus on the Intractable

By Harold A. Young

The burden and devastation of intrastate conflicts are disproportionally borne by people of color in the developing world. While many people of color in the United States may view these conflicts as distant, they are not. Some may have relatives and friends in these conflict areas; however, it is worth noting that many products we take for granted use raw materials extracted despite of and sometimes even used to fuel the conflicts. One only has to think of “blood diamonds” coming out of Sierra Leone and “conflict minerals” from Democratic Republic of Congo for graphic details. Further, while details are just emerging about the plight of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar (Burma), we do know that there has been little or no international response.

Without clear domestic and international leadership, a seemingly paralyzed global community struggles with sporadic attempts at cease-fires, humanitarian aid, and limited peacekeeping intervention. The designation of armed conflict is grounded in three key characteristics: (1) it is a political conflict; (2) it involves armed combat by the armed forces of a state or the forces of one or more armed faction seeking a political end; and (3) at least 1,000 people have been killed directly by the fighting during the conflict and there are at least 25 combat deaths annually (Project Ploughshare). Figure 1 illustrates the continuous decline of interstate conflict and death after World War II. Even with a brief decline in the mid-1990s, the growing trend in intrastate conflict (international conflict/war) is especially significant since the end of the Cold War (Human Security Report 2013).

Figure 1: Average number of Interstate conflicts per year by decade, 1950-2011
Figure 1: Average number of Interstate conflicts per year by decade, 1950-2011

There has also been an increase in the number of non-state armed conflicts resulting in significant casualties. These conflicts may involve groups in armed conflict outside the control of the government. Figure 2 displays comparative data on the numbers of intrastate conflicts (domestic conflict/war) and battle deaths (Human Security Report 2013).

Figure 2: Global trends in Intrastate conflicts and battle deaths, 1989 to 2011
Figure 2: Global trends in Intrastate conflicts and battle deaths, 1989 to 2011

State sovereignty remains an important concept in international politics. Westphalian “model states” never really existed nor were the geographic and political entities that existed unassailable. Acknowledging those realities would contribute more to peace and stability (Krasner 1995). Further, since the end of the cold war, some states are willing to lead, participate in, and publicly support multilateral humanitarian interventions using force against a state under certain circumstances. As was seen in the 1999 case of Kosovo, states are willing to act without authorization of the United Nations Security Council and without the U.S. expressly basing the intervention on humanitarian grounds. After the Cold War, the most important doctrinal development on humanitarian intervention is probably the U.N. authorization of intervention in Somalia in 1992 (Charron 2006). While the outcome is less than desirable, there are subsequent examples. The rationale may include reputation (U.S. as a champion of human rights), loyalty or history (e.g., colonial power and former colony as was seen with U.K. intervening in Sierra Leone starting in 2000) or to protect some specific national interest (U.S. intervention in Kuwait in 1990). While such interventions may be legitimate, there is a clear question of legality vis-à-vis the U.N. Charter. Nevertheless, the sample of intrastate conflicts in the table below shows that most of the conflicts affects people of color with little action from the international community.

Table 1 presents a sample of intrastate conflicts that have captured the attention of the media and the international community over the last four decades. This sample represents intrastate conflicts in several regions of world involving different groups and varying motives.

State

Conflict

Consequences

International Response

Democratic Republic of Congo,
1998-

Conflict over control of vast natural resources

6 million dead; 3.4 million internally displaced and 2 million refugees

No international military response

Cambodia,
1975-1979

State persecution
under Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge

Approximately
1,500,000 dead

Intervention by
Vietnam

Somalia,
1992

Inter-clan and inter-factional

350,000 to 1,000,000 dead

Intervention by US

Kosovo,
1999

Religious/ethnic
cleansing

1.5
million dead; 225,000 Kosovar men are believed to be missing. Estimated 5,000
Kosovars executed.

Intervention by NATO

Rwanda,
1994

Tribal conflict

Estimated
800,000

Intervention by UN
but did not prevent genocide

Sri Lanka,
1982-2009

Government vs. Tamil
separatist

Estimated 80,000-100,000
people killed

No international military
response

Sudan,
2010-2012

Ethnic cleansing

Estimated 30,000
killed and 1,000,000 displaced

No international military
response

Syria,
2011-2017

Government vs.
resistance movement; faction wars

More than 465,000
dead and 145,000 reported missing

No international military
response


Table 1: Examples of major intrastate conflicts since 1975

 

There is some agreement that the world community should act in the face of a humanitarian crisis. There is, however, a divergence of opinion on the scope for fear of abuse by more powerful states advancing national interests. Despite the changing scope of state actions and their role in the era globalization, no one takes the issue of state sovereignty lightly. As posited, there is a prima facie presumption of state sovereignty over intervention although that presumption may not hold in certain circumstances (Carey 1997) or may be contingent on the existence of circumstances that warrant a violation of state sovereignty. What is missing is a set of agreed criteria or benchmarks that will trigger an intervention or response by a force recognized by the U.N. and a method for assigning duties and distributing costs.

Undoubtedly the debate about the tension between real state sovereignty and the international community’s obligation to protect people within a state will continue. The framework needed for the world community to act on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) commitment is yet to be developed and agreed to despite the priorities agreed to earlier in the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility To Protect (ICISS). The report identifies preventing the development of humanitarian crises in the first place thereby avoiding the dilemmas and pitfalls of intervention that will inevitably plague the best-laid plans. Second, it specifies the responsibility of the international community to respond with military intervention as the last resort. Third, the responsibility to help the state rebuild after the intervention. Nanda (2013) reviews the future of R2P and the principles identified in ICISS is the light of the ongoing crises in different part of the world. Nanda expresses doubt that the principles of R2P and consistent international responses will become the norm.

It is unclear how far the current U.S. administration is willing to go in Syria or anywhere else based on the current mixed signals about guiding policies or plans of action. The 59-missile attack on a single Syria target on April 5, 2017 is characterized as a response to the use of chemical weapons as part of the ongoing conflicts and genocide (Rosenfeld, April 7, 2017). Further, despite establishing a commission in 2011 to investigate human right violation in Syria, its efforts have been stymied due to inaccessibility within Syria and the reports that have been produced based on sources escaping Syria have not yet resulted in any prosecutions. Frustration with the international commission peaked with the resignation of an experienced international prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, in August. She states “I am frustrated, I give up……We thought the international community had learned something from Rwanda. But no, they have not learned anything” (Gordts, August 6, 2017).

Meanwhile, intrastate wars smolder and rage in the hotspots around the world precipitating death, destruction of vital infrastructure, internal population displacement, refugee crises, and economic pressure on neighboring states. Those skeptical of the international will to act to prevent or stop intrastate wars have good reason while those who remain hopeful have little basis to do so.

About the Author: Harold Young is an Assistant Professor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. His research area is Public Law and examines an American and comparative perspective on judicial institutional changes and decision-making. Previously, he was a health communications manager, a social worker and practiced law. Contact Young at youngh@apsu.edu.

MPSA Roundtable on Applying to Grad School

MPSA Roundtable on Applying to Grad School

Mackenzie H. Eason of the University of California – Los Angeles chairs this MPSA roundtable session on “Applying to Graduate School” with Coty J. Martin, West Virginia University, Joan Ricart-Huguet, Princeton University, and Jovan Milojevich, University of California-Irvine. Members of the panel discuss questions and issues related to applying to graduate programs, such as when and where to apply, and how to make yourself a more appealing and ultimately successful candidate for admission.

Additional topics discussed include:

  • Challenges faced by first-generation and international college students.
  • Financial considerations and obtaining funding for graduate study.
  • Selecting a graduate program that will be a good fit based on research interests and geographic location.
  • Writing a personal statement or statement of purpose.
  • Networking, mentoring and building relationships with faculty.

MPSA members can log in to access a variety of recordings from highlighted MPSA conference presentations.

Recap of MPSA Chat (Work-Life Balance #PSBeWell)

Many thanks to our co-hosts for the discussion:  Todd Curry, Assistant Professor of Political Science at The University of Texas at El Paso, Jacqueline Sievert, Research Fellow with YWCA Niagara, and Adnan Rasool, Doctoral Candidate at Georgia State University.

Look for the extended conversation on Twitter using #PSBeWell and please share your ideas for upcoming #MPSAchat sessions at https://mpsa.typeform.com/to/tuWRlM.

 

An Invitation to Participate: MPSA’s Inaugural Twitter Chat #PSBeWell

A healthy work-life balance is important regardless of where you are in your academic career.

  • Every PhD has the first-hand experience with Grad School struggles.
  • Every tenured professor can remember the feeling of going on the job market.
  • PhDs in non-academic careers know how difficult the decision was to choose a non-academic career path.

Outlets like the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed often share perspectives and advice on combatting challenges we all face throughout our academic careers. For example, challenges like imposter syndrome are no longer hidden but are now acknowledged and widely discussed.

One of the biggest challenges we still face is asking for that initial help from our seniors, mentors and even colleagues. More often than not, most of us choose to not seek help when we are going through these challenges for fear of being judged or having it held against us.

Recent losses in the discipline and subsequent conversations in person and on Twitter have encouraged us to open the door for further discussion about managing the unique brand of stress that accompanies academic life and fostering a work-life balance.

While a Twitter chat won’t provide a quick fix, we hope that this conversation will reveal resources and help strengthen support networks that will prove beneficial to our friends and colleagues.

On Tuesday, August 22 at 2:00 PM (Eastern), please join us for MPSA’s first Twitter chat on this subject. Co-hosts for the inaugural discussion are Todd Curry, Assistant Professor of Political Science at The University of Texas at El Paso, Jacqueline Sievert, Research Fellow with YWCA Niagara, and Adnan Rasool, Doctoral Candidate at Georgia State University.

If you haven’t participated in a live Twitter chat before, here are a few tips:

  • A moderator from MPSA will post a series of numbered questions over the course of the hour to help prompt response from participants. (Q1: What is your ideal “work-life balance” for the new academic year?)
  • To share your answer to a specific question, just begin your response with “A1” and include the hashtag(s) designated for the chat.
  • The live chat will last approximately an hour, and you are welcome to participate for some or all of it. We hope that the conversation continues using the hashtag so others can catch up on it later.
  • You may choose to use your regular Twitter account to follow along or you may opt to use online tools created specifically for Twitter chats. Here are three examples and instructions for each.

We will be using two hashtags for the inaugural Twitter Chat (#MPSAchat and #PSBeWell). #MPSAchat will be carried forward for each monthly chat and we hope that #PSBeWell will be used exclusively when work-life balance topics are in focus.

Future MPSA Twitter chats will be on the fourth Tuesday of each month with a focus on topics including professional development, public engagement, advocacy, research, publishing, teaching/learning, and work-life balance.

MPSA Roundtable: Teaching LGBTQ Politics (audio)

Susan Burgess, Ohio University-Main Campus, chairs this discussion among panelists and participants in the audience on Teaching LGBTQ Politics. Panelists include Christine Keating of Ohio State University-Main Campus, Megan Elizabeth Osterbur of Xavier University of Louisiana, Marla Brettschneider of University of New Hampshire-Main Campus, and Courtenay Daum of Colorado State University-Fort Collins. Session topics included selecting topics, readings, and pedagogical strategies pertaining to teaching LGBTQ politics classes.

The LGBTQ Politics Teaching Collective, a project in which scholars simultaneously teach courses in LGBTQ politics during Spring 2018, was also introduced during this discussion.

Additional topics from the discussion include:

  • New strategies on teaching LGBTQ politics and queer theory
  • Addressing enrollment and environmental issues
  • Finding interdisciplinary partners on your campus
  • Overall themes and supplementary texts used when shaping syllabi

Attendees also received a Table of Contents from the panel’s new collection of essays “LGBTQ Politics: A Critical Reader”, due out from NYU Press on September 5, 2017.

MPSA members can log in to access a variety of recordings from highlighted MPSA conference presentations.

For more information or to join the LGBTQ Politics Teaching Collective (even if you are not teaching a related course in the Spring – all are welcome), contact Marla Brettschneider at marlab@unh.edu.

 

 

Politics and Sunburn: Snapshot of the U.S. from Belize

By Harold Young, Ph.D.

Portrait of US President Donald Trump, Michael Gordon (Belize), acrylic on canvas with wooden window frame, 2017The sun blazed, cooled only by sporadic showers, during my recent visit to the Central American and Caribbean nation of Belize where I spent my formative years. The size of Massachusetts, Belize is racially and ethnically diverse population of 332,000 that depends heavily on U.S. for trade, investment, and tourism. A cross section of people receive remittances, vacation in and access tertiary and medical institutions in the U.S. My goal during this visit (in addition to enjoying family, friends, the cuisine and seasonal fruits, indulging in the local beers and rums, and avoiding a painful sunburn) was to capture a local snapshot of the Belizean view of the U.S. and the current Trump administration.

After a few days, you quickly glean that Belizeans are passionate about domestic politics and versed in international politics. In a parliamentary democracy patterned on the British system (Grant 1976), domestic politics is close-up, dirty and discussed openly. Assad Shoman, a local political observer, diplomat, writer and academic challenges Belize’s classification as a liberal democracy (Diamond 2002). The United Democratic Party and the opposing Peoples United Party have trade terms governing through many election cycles of bitter partisan fights that merely entrench the status quo (Shoman 1987). Shoman’s (1987) characterization of the democratic system in Belize questions whether elections in Belize make a difference to the lives of ordinary people. His assertions that there is little to differentiate the two major parties and public disillusionment with both arguably puts  the country in the category of an “electoral democracy” described by Diamond (2002) as based on degrees of “freedom, fairness, inclusivity and meaningfulness of elections” (170). I suggest Shoman’s observations are arguably still true today.

With an uncensored press and freedom of expression (Balboni, Palacio and Awe 2007), there have emerged numerous newspapers and many radio and TV stations with a plethora of channels carrying U.S. and international programming that bombard Belizeans twenty-four hours a day. Particularly popular are BBC International, MSNBC, CNN International, Al Jazeera, and the major U.S. outlets: ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Domestic and international events are passionately discussed in homes, on beaches, in bars, on street corners, in barbershops, and online. Despite love of county, there is widespread disenchantment with local politics and politicians (Shoman 1995). Belizean views of U.S. and the current administration, however, are more complicated. As many have relatives in the U.S., emotional and economic ties are strong. The U.S. is admired, loved, feared, disliked, envied, and made fun of in a deep love-hate cauldron. Belizeans love American pop, hip-hop and R&B music, Disney characters, hamburgers and fries, reality TV, the NBA, MLB, and the general notion that America can be a land of opportunity. Any combination of those elements fuels the exodus of Belizeans to the U.S. (Vernon 1990). Conversely, Belizeans are suspicious of U.S. foreign interventions, dislike the “ugly American” tourists and the rehashed refrain from then-candidate Ronald Reagan during the 1980 presidential campaign to “Make America Great Again” (Margolin, September 9, 2016). My conclusion is that the locals view Donald Trump and his administration’s policies with a combination of bewilderment and amusement. Both reactions stem from the conclusion that the most powerful country on earth has elected a president who seems as visionless and as tainted as many of the local politicians and administration. One friend referred to Trump’s election as a “self-inflicted wound” which is a phrase often used in the U.S. media for President Trump’s actions and proposed policies (See Borger, January 29 2017; Lake, May 11, 2017) and mused about the specter of China or Russia filling the possible super power vacuum (Graham-Harrison, Luhn, Walker,Sdghi and Rice-Oxley, July 7, 2015) .

The most widely read bi-weekly local newspaper is the Amandala. In addition to standard editorial content, a health section, classifieds, and advertisements, each edition contains a smorgasbord of local crime, sports, local political intrigue, and international news. A snap shot view of this newspaper from June 15 through July 20 provides an interesting picture. Based on a cursory count of the ten issues over five weeks, there is an interesting distribution of subjects (See Figure).

Figure: Distribution of five categories of articles by percent from June 15, to July 20, 2017

There are 64 international articles (15% of all articles in sample) averaging 6.4 per issue. Of 64 articles, 10 articles (16%) discuss the U.S. and the current administration; none of which discuss the administration in a favorable light. An article reprinted in the Amandala entitled, Donald Trump at the Abyss, Ford (July 12, 2017) concludes, “Nevertheless, the real danger to the Republic are the intentional and malign acts of a soulless presidency that will haunt this country for years after the man with the Tiny hands is forgotten.” Belizeans still feel connected to the U.S. but with an increasingly negative view of the U.S. (or disappointment) for electing Donald Trump. Belize is not alone. A recent Pew Research poll of thirty-seven nations reflects a significant drop in the favorability rating of the U.S. under President Trump when compared to President Obama.

Map of BelizeConsidering the media coverage (Ford August 7, 2016) and my personal discussions (absent formal opinion polling), it is not a stretch to conclude that most Belizeans do not have a favorable view of Donald Trump and his administration. The artist and educator Yasser Musa captures this in his poem Tea with Trump. Musa eviscerates Mr. Trump’s character, hubris and domestic and international policies. A collage of images and footage of the artist Michael Gordon painting a portrait of Mr. Trump accompany the reading of the poem.

As descendants of pirate, colonial, slave and native cultures, Belizeans are a hardy people with welcoming dispositions. For this small country, therefore, drastic policy changes or instability in the U.S. is always deeply worrying. While I do not expect the current administration to precipitate a total disillusionment with the U.S., there is perceptible cynicism about U.S. commitment to the world community. Nevertheless, there remains a belief in the underlying strength of American institutions and an expectation that the U.S. will remain the stable beacon to the North. Let us hope that we all survive this tumultuous period without a painful sunburn!

About the Author: Harold Young is an Assistant Professor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. His research area is Public Law and examines an American and comparative perspective on judicial institutional changes and decision-making. Previously, he was a health communications manager, a social worker and an attorney-at-law. Contact him at youngh@apsu.edu.

MPSA Career Roundtable on What to Do/Not Do at a Job Talk (audio)

MPSA Roundtable: What to Do (and What Not to Do) at a Job Talk
Listen in as Elizabeth A. Bennion of Indiana University-South Bend chairs the MPSA Career Roundtable on “What to Do and What Not to Do at a Job Talk” with Mary Hallock Morris of University of Southern Indiana and David C. Wilson of University of Delaware. During the discussion, the members of the panel share their observations on how to know if the university is a good fit for you (personally and professionally) and what can make you stand out as a successful candidate.

Topics discussed also include:

  • Preparing to present and explain your research.
  • Identifying your potential audience and building rapport.
  • Tips for handling unanticipated questions and awkward scenarios.
  • Advice for successful phone interviews, teaching demonstrations, and meals.
  • A variety of questions from the audience at the April 2017 MPSA Conference.

MPSA members can log in to access a variety of recordings from highlighted MPSA conference presentations.

(The Lack of) Diversity in Trump’s America

By Adaobi Duru, University of Louisiana at Monroe

(The Lack of) Diversity in Trump's America

The lack of diversity in Trump’s cabinet appointment is significant and might be a reflection of the President’s position on issues regarding racial and gender equality in government. The President’s cabinet is made up of 18 men and four women. In total, 73% of the cabinet members are white men. The only black man on the team- Ben Carson was a contender for the presidency. In this cabinet, the big four positions- State, Defense, Justice and Treasury departments are manned by white men.

Journalists and scholars have written extensively on the apparent lack of diversity in elected and appointed positions in government, yet according to a Pew study, all minority groups are still underrepresented. The implications of diversity for the survival of the nation’s democracy are far reaching because of the changes happening in the country.

The United States is a considered a great nation because of its form of government – democracy is supposed to represent the common man. It is government of the people by the people and for the people, and not government of the rich and by the rich. The demographic trend of the present cabinet members is toward plutocracy. As the Washington post rightly said, Trump’s administration is the wealthiest in modern American history. One might wonder if there is a correlation between the lack of diversity in cabinet and the administration’s aversion to immigration.

Equal representation of all races and ethnicity in government has never been more important than it is now because of the demographic changes of the nation’s population. The United States is gradually becoming more diverse with rapid changes coming to many of the least diverse areas.  According to Pew, the country is projected to be more diverse than it is currently in coming years. This diverse demographic is a result of immigrants from different parts of the world arriving the united states and claiming it as home. The projection is that by 2055 there will be no single ethnic majority on the country. Therefore, the country must make intentional effort to address issues of diversity if they want to reap the abundant benefit inherent in such endeavor.

The Diversity Gap in American Politics
Source: LEE & LOW BOOKS, Where’s the Diversity? 5 Reasons Why the US Government isn’t More Diverse

For one, because the nation is diverse, an equal representation will increase the administration’s ability to cater to people from different backgrounds and be more tolerant of other traditions and cultures that makeup the population. A diverse cabinet will likely pay more attention to minority issues than a homogeneous cabinet.

Minta (2012), found that diversity had a great effect on the responsiveness of the nation’s political institutions to minority sentiments. They found support for the argument that shifts in the demographic composition of lawmakers made them collectively more considerate to racial and ethnic minority problems. This indicates that diversity is important in government institutions because it ensures that citizens interest will be represented.

Race and ethnicity aside, women are also underrepresented in Trump’s cabinet, with only four women appointed overall (21.1% of the confirmed positions), but no woman in the big four positions. The President was embattled over his objectification of women during the election – Megyn Kelly, who was with Fox News at the time called him out on this during one of the presidential debates. While the President has denied these allegations, his cabinet appointment does not reflect his touted respect for the female gender.

Although women are as capable as men at being good leaders, a Pew study indicates that women are still in short supply at top government positions in the united states. This gender disparity in government comes with a price. According to a 2016 Mckinsey Global Institute research, closing the the gender gap in workforce participation will lead to a $28 trillion increase to the annual world GDP.

Women are not only important in business and the economy, their input in government is also noteworthy. A study conducted by Anzia and Berry (2010), revealed that districts that are served by women have certain advantages over districts represented by men. First, districts that elect women receive about $49 million more each year in discretionary spending than those that elect men. Also, women sponsor more bills than their male counterparts. Given the disadvantaged position of women in politics, Anzia and Berry found that “women will perform better, on average, than their male counterpart.”

This quote from this CNN article sums up my gender disparity argument “Simply having female leaders changes the norms about who can and what qualities are necessary in leadership. Having women in leadership roles is breaking down cultural and structural barriers–improving leadership around the world and showing everyone what women can achieve.”

By embracing a diverse cabinet, President Trump will not only communicate fairness, but also a deep understanding that policy development and other government work benefit from having different views and backgrounds at the table.

About the author: Adaobi Duru is an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe Communication Program. Her research is in health and political communication. She examines effects of political communication regarding health policies. She is also an international media comparativist. She can be reached via email at duru@ulm.edu.