American History

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New Faces In the President’s Crew

Includes videos and interactive visualization on presidential line of succession (Prezi)

Disclaimer: This is a video produced by the White House, not an independent source.

Change is a–coming to the president’s Cabinet.

As President Barack Obama prepares for his second term in the White House, he’ll be joined by a handful of new faces to help guide him through the sausage factory we call government.  The Cabinet includes the vice president and the heads (or “secretaries”) of 15 executive agencies, each of whom helps advise the president. PBS NewsHour Extra lists a good description of each position (you know, in case you’re looking for a new job).

It’s pretty common for a president entering a second term to switch up his Cabinet a bit. Of course, whether the departing Cabinet member has chosen to leave or was told to get packing is not always clear.

Each new Cabinet member is nominated by the president, but most need to be confirmed by a majority vote of the U.S. Senate. The practice of picking Cabinet members dates back to America’s first president, George Washington, who had a four member Cabinet that included Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War and Attorney General. Continue reading

I Do … I Think? Making Sense of Gay Marriage in the Golden State

INCLUDES: ARTICLE; INTERACTIVE MAP; KQED RADIO AND PBS VIDEO CLIPS

cityhall

For the better part of the past decade, California has been engaged in an epic battle over, well, getting engaged. The multiple court cases, votes, legal victories, reversals, protests, celebration and more protests have kept same-sex couples in an ongoing state of marital limbo and made it downright confusing to keep track of where things stand. Continue reading

Same-Sex Marriage Laws by State

Includes interactive map

The data visualization wizards at the Los Angeles Times put together a great chronological map that illustrates the change in same-sex marriage rights by state since 2000. Click the image below to see the interactive version.

Gay-Marriage_timeline_LA Times

 

Background

In 1996 the U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), stating that “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.’’.

Under the federal law, states do not have any obligation to recognize same-sex marriages and the legal/financial rights that go along with it. However, individual states have the power to decide – either through legislation or voter initiative – to legalize same-sex marriages. And in recent years, a growing number of states have done just that. They include Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut,  Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as Washington D.C. In the 2012 election, voters in the state of Washington, Maryland and Maine also legalized marriage for same-sex couples, raising the total number of states to nine.

In California, same-sex marriage was briefly allowed until voters in 2008 passed Proposition 8, which struck down the law.  A federal court has since ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional. Same-sex marriages, however,  have yet to resume here, and the U.S. Supreme Court is now considering whether to hear the case.

What Are Political Party Platforms?

Includew printable PDF

Flickr

By Donelle Blubaugh
Contributor

What are political party platforms and how much impact do they have in actual political decision-making?

During the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer, you probably heard a lot about the party platforms”  These are actual documents that communicate the key principles of a political party and its core ideologies. Namely, what’s our government for and how should it serve the people?  Recreational reading, they are not. But understanding them can help voters steer through some of the election-season spin. The platforms actually provide some real, concrete insight into how party officials and candidates stand on critical issues – things like the economy, education and foreign affairs and social policies. Continue reading

Who Votes? 20 Years of State-by-State Voter Participation Rates, Visualized

Includes interactive maps and charts

This interactive graphic, produced by the Pew Center on the States sheds light on how voters in each state, and the nation overall, have participated in elections, from 1990 through 2010. Check out voting trends over time across three separate measures of the election process: the number of registered voters, the number of ballots cast, and the number of votes counted. Visit Pew’s site for the full-size version.

A Brief History of Arguing: The Greatest Hits (and misses) of Presidential Debates

Includes a NY Times video history of presidential debates

The first ever televised presidential debate didn't happen until 1960. Candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy squared off – just once – in front of the camera, an event that proved extremely beneficial to the smoother and more youthful Kennedy, who went on to win the election against his stodgier opponent. The next presidential debate wouldn't happen for another 16 years, when President Gerald Ford – who made a notorious factual gaffe – fared poorly against his Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter.

Ever since, presidential debates have become a fixture of our electoral system. It's now standard protocol for candidates to face off three times in the grueling weeks leading up to election day. The impressions they try to make, as they appear live before millions of viewers, can significantly influence the outcome of the election.

The first debate, which was on October 3 at the University of Denver, focused on domestic policy and followed a traditional debate format, in which moderator Jim Lehrer of the PBS NewsHour asked questions, and the candidates took 2-minutes to respond. Mitt Romney, who delivered a much stronger performance, was widely considered the winner of this match-up. Following the debate, poll numbers – which had previously favored Obama – shifted slightly to put the candidates in a near dead heat.

So a lot is riding on debate number two, which takes place Tuesday, Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. Moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley,  for CNN takes the format of a town hall meeting, in which undecided voters in the audience have an opportunity to directly ask the candidates questions on both foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion.

The third and final face-off in the trilogy happens the following week, on Oct. 22 at Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL. It's hosted by Bob Schieffer of CBS. The format will be identical to the first debate, with a focus on foreign policy.

For more on the debate system and full-length videos and transcripts of past debates, visit Commission on Presidential Debates.

 

Ten of the Most Effective Presidential Campaign Commercials Ever Made

Includes many videos

There once was a time not so very long ago when people actually functioned without television (gasp). And then, just like that, it arrived … and spread like wildfire.

In 1948 less than one percent of American homes had TVs. By 1954 – a mere six years later -  more than half of all American’s had a boob-tube in the house. By 1958, that rate had soared to over 80 percent,  and today hovers at about 97 percent.

Continue reading