Monday, September 1, 2008

Teaching with and Around the Election

Election 2008

Last week was quite a week to be teaching government! The Democratic National Convention lived up to its pre-show hype, and then some. Hillary was gracious in defeat and defiant in her defense of the Party. Bill gave both silent and vocal approval to the proceedings. Joe showed his willingness to be the attack dog even though the victim of his attacks will be an old and close friend. And Barack...well, Barack had his defining moment.

This week the Republicans will light up the Twin Cities with John McCain and company playing the rebuttal role. As always, the Republicans will show a dignified and united front...but this year some cracks might appear and the behind the scenes compromises will need to be ironed out before the Grand Old Party lights up their own showcase. With a surprise VP pick in Governor Palin of Alaska and Hurricane Gustav knocking on New Orleans' door who knows what will play out in St. Paul?

In the coming weeks and months, it will be difficult not to keep some focus on "the race". The media will follow the horse race effect of the various polls as their reports recount every step and misstep of both of the candidates, their running mates, and even the spouses. At this writing, the polls are showing an even race with Obama enjoying some bounce from the DNC. But we know that with gaffs (I'm not sure how many houses I own), perceptions (he is too young to be the commander in chief), and the BIG MO (momentum) polls will shift and swing on a weekly basis.

While the rat race of Presidential election is going on, the teaching points for the 2008 election season will pile up. I thought I would touch on some topics that I have already pegged as topics of discussion and bulletin boards. Here is my list:
1) The selection process for VP...factors considered by the candidate for his # 2 position
2) Presidential election strategy...where to campaign, when to throw the dirt, how to spin the polls
3) Elections ads...looking at the past classics (Willie Horton and the Daisy Girl) and the present efforts
4) Election finance...PACs, 527s, and campaign finance reform
5) The Electoral it works and should we keep it
6) The Selling of the President...I still like to drag out the Joe McGinnis stuff and see how McGinnis flies with this generation.

In the mean time, we shouldn't forget the vital Congressional election. With a slim lead in the Senate and House, the Democrats need to build on their 2006 successes. It will be a great time to watch some pretty interesting Congressional contests around the nation. This summer I read that the GOP will be defending 25 open House seats (retirements and running for higher office) while the Democrats are looking at only seven. If those numbers have held, it will make for an interesting campaign season.

In the Senate, some GOP safe seats are being challenged by strong, well financed opposition. Again, teaching points pile up including incumbent re-election success rates, PACs and Congressional elections, Presidential election year races versus off-year elections, the role of the media and polling. I suggest having the kids watch the classic Robert Redford "The Candidate" and compare issues from the 1972 film with current topics. Environment, health care, and jobs top the 1972 list. HMMMMM!

Enjoy some great moments from this week's GOP convention and as always, if you have any questions or comments we encourage you to blog in.

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