Mark Carl Rom

 

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Lynda Software Tutorials

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Data Visualization for Business — Course offered in spring 2014

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The Future of the GOP: Christie or Cuccinelli?

This oped originally appeared in The Hoya.

My original text (before Hoya editing) appears below:

Last week New Jersey’s incumbent governor, Republican Chris Christie, swamped his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono by a 60-39 percent margin. Virginia’s Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, was edged by Democrat Terry McAuliffe 48-45.5 percent.

These statistics may tell the story of those 2013 gubernatorial elections, but the numbers 306 and 191 are perhaps more important for the 2016 presidential election.

If the Republicans nominate a candidate who can appeal to African-American and Latino voters as effectively as Christie did, and white voters split as they did in 2012, then the Republicans would win 306 electoral votes and the presidency with 51 percent of the popular vote.

But if the GOP selects a candidate who does as poorly among African-Americans, and who is only able to attract as large a share of the white vote as Cuccinelli, then the Grand Old Party would earn only 191 electoral votes and finish a distant second to the Democratic candidate in the popular vote with 44 percent.

(All other groups are assumed to split as they did in the 2012 presidential election; you can make your own projections at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/04/30/us/politics/presidential-math-demographics-and-immigration-reform.html?_r=1&)

So Republicans must ask themselves: Are we the party of Christie or Cuccinelli?

Both candidates have their virtues. Ken Cuccinelli has had a distinguished, if highly controversial, career in public service as a lawyer, a state senator, and Attorney General. A Tea Party favorite, he is an outspoken and often hard-edged proponent of conservative social values. He opposes abortion rights in all cases except to save the life of the woman, and he supports Virginia’s constitutional ban on same sex marriage. Cuccinelli is a climate-change denier and is a staunch opponent of “Obamacare”. He has taken a hard-line stance on illegal immigration.

Before being elected as New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie was active in campaign politics and had served as a U.S. Attorney under President George W. Bush. His opposition to abortion is not as categorical as is Cuccinelli’s and he believes abortions may be obtained in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother. Christie opposes same sex marriage, but instructed his Attorney General not to appeal the state Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that granted those marriage rights. He accepts that climate change is real, important, and human-induced, although his administration has generally angered environmentalists. Christie may not like Obamacare, but he notes it is the law of the land and is one of eight Republican governors to accept its Medicaid expansion. He endorsed a DREAM Act for New Jersey.

Each man is conservative: Cuccinelli, only somewhat more so. Each seeks lower taxes, less spending, and smaller government. So why might we anticipate the potentially enormous differences in presidential outcomes if the Republicans choose a Christie and not a Cuccinelli?

Because both policy and politics matter in presidential campaigns. Christie’s softer and more pragmatic conservativism is almost certainly closer to the ‘median voter’ — the voters in the middle of the American political spectrum — than is Cuccinelli’s harder and more unyielding version. In connecting to public preferences, Christie has a superior policy product.

Moreover, Christie is far more…likable. He connects with people. He is a happy warrior, not an angry one. He (in)famously “hugged” President Obama to thank him for federal support after Superstorm Sandy. Cuccinelli, for his part, has still not called McAuliffe to concede defeat and to congratulate him. Americans do not want a scold for President. They want an optimist.

Yes, Christie ran against a weak candidate who received little support from the Democratic Party. Yes, Cuccinelli was outspent by almost 2-1, and McAuliffe flooded the state with negative ads about the Republican. It is risky to put too much weight on the outcomes of state-wide races run three years before the presidential election.

Still, the Republicans must face the possibility that they could receive 306 electoral votes in 2016, or only 191. They must ask themselves: Are we the party of Christie? Or of Cuccinelli?

 

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The Future of the GOP%3A Christie or Cuccinelli – Opinion – The Hoya

The Future of the GOP%3A Christie or Cuccinelli – Opinion – The Hoya.

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Election Roundup on Voice of Russia

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Curriculum and the Culture Wars

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My chapter “Below the (Bible) Belt: Sex Education in American Public Schools” will appear in this volume.

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Toward a More Perfect Constitution

This oped originally appeared here.

We Americans take our Constitution seriously, and we should: Our founding document has helped create a durable foundation for our country. While we celebrate our Constitution today, National Constitution Day, we should take care to not let this praise lapse into worship. Our foundation can be strengthened. The best way to honor our Constitution is to improve it.

Over the years we have done so by making our Constitution — and its application through legislation and judicial rulings — more egalitarian and more democratic. We have eliminated slavery and expanded due process protections. We have approved the direct election of senators. We have extended the right to vote to people of all races, women and those over the age of 18. Each expansion of political equality and democracy has made our Constitution — and our country — a more perfect union.

Oddly, the Constitution does not itself directly guarantee our voting rights, nor does it ensure our principle of “one person, one vote.” It should. In this spirit, I offer four amendments to enhance and protect equality and democracy. The first two amendments secure our voting rights; the second two ensure that all votes carry equal weight.

The first change I propose would be a 28th Amendment: “As Government requires the consent of the Governed, Congress shall make no law infringing upon the right to vote.”

The Constitution forbids Congress from restricting our freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly; it states that our rights to bear arms shall not be infringed. Our voting rights are equally deserving of protection. When a person arrives at a polling place to cast a ballot asserting this right, the burden of proof would be on the government to disprove this claim. This amendment would prohibit additional voter registration requirements and would presumably require expansive voting periods so that this right could actually be exercised.

Secondly, a 29th Amendment: “Each citizen shall have the right to vote. Citizens with legal guardians (e.g., minors or the incapacitated) may have the guardian cast their vote on their behalf.”

Yes, all citizens should have the right to vote, for at least two reasons. First, this would help assure that public policy responds more accurately to citizen preferences. Have you wondered why our policies heavily favor the elderly at the expense of children? The answer is clear: Children cannot vote; the elderly do. Second, it reinforces that we all have rights. Our sex, ethnicity, religion, income and age do not determine our rights. Our humanity does.

For my proposed 30th Amendment: “Each state shall have the number of Senators proportional to its population.”

The current Senate grossly violates the principle of one person, one vote: the voters of Wyoming have vastly more weight in the Senate than the voters of California. There is no compelling reason why the weight of our vote should depend on the accident of our location.

With my amendment, the essential benefits of the Senate are maintained. The Senate would remain smaller than the House, with senators having longer terms. The Senate’s deliberative role is protected. Federalism is preserved. The separation of powers and its checks and balances are retained. Yet the Senate will more accurately represent the true will of the American people.

And lastly, my 31st Amendment: “The President shall be elected by a majority of the popular vote.”

The Electoral College is deeply flawed. It doesn’t meet the “one person, one vote” standard, as voters in less populated states have more weight than voters in the larger states. It enables presidents to be elected with a minority of the popular vote. This amendment would ensure that the president represents the majority of actual voters, not the majority of some faceless “college.”

If these voting rights actually existed and the American people were then called to vote on these amendments through a national referendum, they would be approved. And they should be. With them, I thoroughly believe that our Constitution would be better and our nation would be stronger.

Mark Rom is an associate professor of government.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education: September 3, 2013 A Political Scientist Seeks to Reinvent the Scholarly Conference By Dan Berrett

Mark Carl Rom often felt terrible when he attended big academic conferences.

When he was a graduate student, he chalked it up to nerves. As his career progressed, he confided to colleagues that he was bored by underdeveloped papers, poorly presented, and that he felt uneasy amid the social and professional anxiety that permeated the halls.

“I thought I was one of the lonely, alienated voices,” says Mr. Rom, who is now an associate professor of government and public policy at Georgetown University. “I found out it wasn’t just me.”

Mr. Rom has put his personal dissatisfaction in service of a larger purpose:His paper ”The Scholarly Conference: Do We Want Democracy and Markets or Authority and Tradition?” was published last year by the Journal of Political Science Education. It attracted attention among scholars as the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association took place in Chicago late last month.

The size of most academic meetings is the underlying problem, says Mr. Rom, who enjoys attending small, disciplinary meetings, where participants can share ideas and develop a sense of community.

Most people choose large conferences, he says, because they tend to take place in attractive cities and offer the opportunity to catch up with friends from graduate school. Networking with peers can be another benefit, but it tends to happen informally, and not because of how the conference is organized.

The result, Mr. Rom says, is that attendees see many presentations as irrelevant. “The conference is just a way to get reimbursed,” he says.

Mr. Rom set out to bolster what he observed anecdotally at the approximately 50 conferences he has attended since the 1980s. He hired eight doctoral students to attend sessions of their choosing at the 2008 meeting of the political-science association, which produced a nonrandom sample of 127 papers presented during 33 panels.

Attendees and speakers rarely interacted, the results showed. Almost 40 percent of the presenters received no questions, and 30 percent were asked just one.

“People walk in, they listen, and then they leave,” Mr. Rom says.

Participants also spent little time going to presentations, according to the association’s count of attendees at each session. Mr. Rom calculates that the average attendee went to 2.7 panels per conference.

If the experience of attending a large scholarly conference is going to improve, Mr. Rom argues, its structure and incentives must change. In his paper, he proposes the “customized conference.” It would be better, he believes, at satisfying individual attendees and building networks of scholars.

Presentations would fall into one of two categories, “teaching” or “learning.” A teaching presentation would be a formal talk on a project that is at or near completion. A learning presentation would give scholars an opportunity to discuss their works in progress. The distinction would make the sessions more fruitful for everyone, he says.

Most of the papers at the conference he studied fell into one of those two categories, although the differences were seldom acknowledged. Just over half of the papers that Mr. Rom’s researchers reviewed at the 2008 conference were essentially finished, while 35 percent were works in progress. The rest were in very preliminary stages or unclear in their questions or methods.

Teaching sessions would be selected on the basis of votes by likely attendees. Rather than cede authority to a small group of conference organizers, as is typical, such an approach would place control over the conference program in the hands of the larger community of scholars, allowing papers that generate substantial interest to be scheduled at peak times, he says.

Votes would be conducted electronically, which would allow the contact information of people who are interested in particular topics to be shared with the speaker and with fellow attendees.

Leaders of the political-science association are generally supportive of Mr. Rom’s ideas.

“I liked best the way the voting empowered attendees,” Jane ­Mansbridge, president of the board of the association, says via e-mail. She wonders if participant voting could be tested on an experimental basis for a day at a future meeting.

But Ms. Mansbridge, who is a professor at Harvard University, worries that Mr. Rom’s suggestions would confer more privilege on well-known scholars.

Steven Rathgeb Smith, executive director of the association, says the paper identifies important themes. But he stopped short of endorsing Mr. Rom’s prescriptions.

Advances in technology, the growth of associations representing scholarly subfields, and the effects of social media should prod societies to think innovatively, Mr. Smith says.

Conferences, he adds, “should be seen as a way to create learning communities with people who share interests.”

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Academic Conferences Are “Lumbering Dinosaurs.” Can Anything Change Them?

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You can read the Monkey Cage post on my article here…

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Reflections on Global Climate Change

An innocent Facebook post by my colleague Clyde Wilcox transmogrified into a “yes it is” and “not it’s not” wallfest on climate change (with Mike Brown and Mark Hines engaging). Mark believes that climate change — sometimes known as ‘global warming’ is happening; Mike does not.

May I reflect at some length?

First, I’m going to assume that Mark and Mike are good and decent (informed, thoughtful) people acting in good faith. Like me, I hope.

I believe that climate change is real, caused (or furthered) by human activity, and potentially highly disruptive. Lots of people will be hurt.

But rather than engaging in the “it’s true!” or “it’s false” debate can I pose a couple questions, and offer some of my answers?

My two questions are for my many FB friends who do not believe that climate change is happening.

1. Do you believe in evolution?
2. What would it take for you to believe that human-caused climate change is happening?

If you do not believe in evolution, then we are probably (certainly?) thinking in different worlds.  Yes, the theory of evolution has gaps and uncertainties, but it is about the most well-established ‘big picture’ understanding of life.  If you think the theory is false, well, ok.  You have lots of company: about half of the American public believes in creationism. But if you believe this it implies that you don’t really believe in scientific evidence.  So if you reject the evidence in evolution it really doesn’t surprise me that you don’t believe the evidence on climate change.

If you do believe in evolution, you are open to scientific evidence.  So what would it take you to believe in climate change?

Please allow me to offer my own answer to the opposite question: What would it take me to reject the theory of climate change?

I would reject it if the major groups that study climate change (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the US Global Research Program, the Arctic Council, and many many more) came to the conclusion that it was not happening. No major scientific group has rejected this conclusion.

I’m not a climate expert, or even much of a climate student. But I’m willing to trust the experts on this.

Ok, yes, I know: experts get things wrong.  Scientists can be bull-headed. They can cling to out-dated ideas.  But, in general, scientists want to get things right.

At the beginning of the 1600s, pretty much all informed opinion held that the sun rotated around the world.  Galileo didn’t, and his views eventually dominated when the evidence became incontrovertible that the earth rotates around the sun.

Only 50 years ago, there was lots of disagreement about smoking causing cancer (although much of the disagreement was funded by tobacco companies). Today, the evidence is overwhelming that smoking does cause cancer, and no legitimate scientist would dispute that.

You may argue: well, scientists are funded to show that climate change is occurring, so scientists have jumped on the money wagon.

Perhaps.  But no scientist wants to appear the fool.  And science will be funded anyway, so the specific conclusion that scientists must agree with climate change seems odd.

Moreover: scientists gain fame by disproving the conventional wisdom, not supporting it.  No one ever receives a Nobel for finding that, yeah, what everyone thought was true is, in fact, true.

So: If you don’t believe that humans are causing climate change, what is your standard for agreeing that climate change is happening?

 

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