A lot went down in 2012. Here are the top 15 stories that Americans paid the most attention to this year. The results are based on polls from the Pew Research Center, the producers of this timeline.
Includes multimedia timelines, Prezis, and additional exploratory presentation formats
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.
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.
A neatly presented recap of a messy, exhausting and seemingly endless presidential race. Produced by K.D. Delany on Prezi.
This animation by NPR does a good job showing where the super PACs and campaigns are funneling their cash to buy up airtime for political ads. Forgot California – in the months leading up to election day, it’s all about the battleground states!
When asked, during the second presidential debate, about their respective positions on assault weapons, both candidates gave only vague responses. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney offered any indication that they would would push for stronger gun control laws.
In case you haven’t been paying attention for the last, say, 40 years, gun control has long been a thorny issue in American politics, partly because of the ongoing heated debate over how the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted, and partly because of the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying group that has successfully dissuaded ranks of political leaders from pushing for more restrictive firearms legislation. Continue reading
Watch Map Center: What If the Battleground States Go Red? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
Because nearly every state in the nation has a winner-take-all presidential electoral system (except Nebraska and Maine), the outcome on election day in most states is fairly predictable. No Republican presidential candidate, for instance, has won California since 1988, and there’s no sign of that trend changing anytime soon. So it wouldn’t be the smartest move to put your money on Mitt Romney here.
Likewise, Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. So Barack Obama’s chances of winning over the Longhorn State this election? Pretty slim.
Of course, on the rare occasion there have been some monumental upsets. Take Indiana, which hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, but in 2008 picked Obama (albeit narrowly and ephemerally: the state is back to it’s solid red roots this year).
The majority of the presidential race is downright predictable.
So where’s the suspense? Where’s the action? Continue reading
Here’s a little factoid that never fails to mightily confuse most voters. As Americans, we actually DO NOT directly elect our presidents and vice presidents. I repeat, the U.S. president is not chosen through a one-person, one-vote system!
Simply put: this is not direct democracy!
When we head to the polls on election day to choose a presidential candidate, we’re not actually really voting for that person. Instead, we’re throwing our support behind a group of “electors” who belong to a strange institution called the electoral college. And it’s that group that actually casts the direct votes to decide who the next president and vice president will be.
Don’t believe me? Check out Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Says it right there. Honest.
Here’s how it works:
First off, what is the Electoral College (and do they have a good football team)?
It’s more of an institution than a place. No dorms. No frat boys. No teams. No crazy parties. Basically, none of the fun stuff.
Here’s what it is: During the presidential election every four years, the various political parties in each state (for instance: California’s Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, etc.) choose a group of “electors,” generally party activists who have pledged their electoral votes to the presidential candidate of that party should he/she win the popular vote in that state. Pretty much anyone who’s registered to vote is eligible to be an elector, with the exception of members of Congress and federal government employees). Continue reading
What’s the electoral college, who are delegates, and why in the heck do we vote on Tuesday?
National elections, especially presidential ones, offer great teaching moments. But explaining the basic mechanics of America’s ever confusing electoral system can be daunting, especially for students who lack a basic understanding of the process.
Fortunately, there are a ton of great free digital resources out there to help your students demystify the process, using pretty engaging and creative formats. Of course, finding them entails the equally daunting task of spending hours online in search of the best unbiased content out there.
So, with that in mind, rather than adding to the cyber-pile, I’ve compiled a list of six excellent sites that do a good job in driving home basic election concepts, and, hopefully, encouraging your students to think critically about the process (rather than just learning about it as a given). This is by no means a comprehensive list (a good longer list can be found at the National Writing Project’s site), so if you have additional suggestions, please share in the comment box below. Continue reading
And there is pretty much no better example than the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which over the last 150 years has undergone epic transformation and been the epicenter of equally epic political battles.
Scroll through the timeline to get a sense of the modern evolution (or de-evolution, depending on how you look at it) of California’s largest water source.
(It may be easier to view in fullscreen mode: to do so, click on button at the bottom right-hand corner of the timeline)
In the week since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling upholding key parts of President Obama’s health care law (“Obamacare”) – namely, the individual mandate that everyone buy insurance - Americans have been inundated by an endless deluge of analysis and commentary. Making sense of it all is challenging, so here are 10 good resources that help connect the dots. Continue reading