The mayoral race in Atlanta has always been severely contested and the candidates who have succeeded in winning the seat have only done so with small electoral margins. However, the 2017 race has been particularly unique considering its unprecedented expense and contentious nature which has pitted candidates from just about every social, economic and political class.
Atlanta has primarily been a Democratic Party stronghold mainly as a result of its large working class African American population. It therefore does not come as a surprise that the city has elected African American mayors from as far back as the mid-1970s. Atlanta just like the greater America has witnessed disturbances to its socio-political landscape which threatens to change the norms.
There has been what many observers have termed backlash from mainly the white working class population who for social as well as economic reasons feel that their influence in the political sphere is systematically being diminished. Whether this fear is grounded on sound reasoning or white supremacist undertones is not entirely clear. One thing is however certain, race identity is a key factor in many electoral races including the one in Atlanta.
To ascertain who might win the seat on December 5th, it is important that one take a look at the positions the two candidates have taken on Key issues. Keisha Bottoms is an African American lawyer who has served in the Atlanta City Council since January 2010. Though the mayoral race is non-partisan, her core ideology beliefs can be termed as a centre left closely related to those of the Democratic Party. She emerged first in the November election carrying about 26% of the vote. Her closest competitor Mary Norwood who was also a council member and had previously ran for the seat came second. Norwood who has been no stranger to controversy has been widely viewed as a conservative. Her success in the polls comes in the backdrop of rising conservatism in the country primarily fuelled by white voters.
Atlanta which has been termed as a ‘chocolate city’ has been on the verge of considerable transformation. Traditionally it has been viewed as a centre for black political, economic and social influence. The demographics in Atlanta have however been gradually changing with the African American population shrinking considerably over the years.
With the rise of race identity politics in America, it is clear that changes to the voter base will have serious ramification in Atlanta Politics. Pundits have argued that the influences of black elites in Atlanta is under threat with poor mass transit and gentrification leading white settlers from conservative Georgia moving into progressive Atlanta.
Mary Norwood has primarily centred her campaign on four major issues which are namely safety, transparency, sustainability and prosperity. Some quarters have viewed positions she has taken such as ‘tough on crime’ as targeting minorities particularly from poor communities. In an era where minorities are voicing their concern over police misconduct and abuses, such views will not auger well with a large section of the voter base in Atlanta.
Norwood’s position with regard to taxes is also not a popular position with liberal and minority voters. Tax cuts supported by Norwood have often led to massive cuts to social and community programmes which have heavily benefited persons in the lower economic Classes.
It is clear that Keisha Bottoms is the most likely candidate to win but the rise of Mary Norwood signifies political changes and what Atlanta politics in the future might be like. This changes are also partly attributable to differences among the black elites which has led to factions. Keisha Bottoms might have to court white voters in order to win the mayoral seat in December symbolizing the end of an era for African American political elites in Atlanta.
Politics is an inherent part of human society affecting virtually all aspects of our interactions with each other. Though traditionally many have viewed politics as the reserve of the political elite, this can be said as a fundamental misunderstanding of what politics is. Politics can be grand as those that affect the affairs of state to the small such as those that affect interpersonal relationships. In the broadest sense, politics can be defined as the way in which people make, preserve and amend the general rules under which they live. In an elementary sense, politics largely revolves around a process of allocating scarce values; determining who gets what how and when.
Defining politics has been termed as a political act in itself as it results in the expression of one’s own perception, beliefs and biases as to what constitutes a political act. One issue remains clear however, that politics is linked to the phenomena of conflict and cooperation. Conflict in this scenario refers to the competition between opposing factions reflecting disparate opinions, clashing interest preferences and needs. Cooperation involves collective action in a means of achieving common goals.
Academics have often argued that conflict and cooperation are not two opposing forces of politics but are part and parcel of the same overall process. This mean that in politics conflict naturally produces integration and divisions. This can be illustrated through examination of America’s body politic where conflict of believes and values coupled by other factors such as class and race have led to the establishment of opposing factions. This faction did not sprout out of intentional design but out of natural and inherent political processes within American society.
In the macro sense, politics is understood as the art and science of government. To understand the phenomena of politics, one has to examine the entire fabric of social relations. This entails examining the cooperation and conflicts between classes groups and individuals. Some theorist have however cautioned against confounding the political and the social. Aristotle once stated that humans are by nature political animals. Despite Aristotle’s pronouncement being subject to a significant body of scholarship, his dictum has widely been interpreted as meaning that humans are social in nature and therefore cooperate and have shared meanings. Aristotle did not mean that the essence of their being is entirely reliant on the state. An illustration of the need to separate the political from the social would be the question of citizenship and membership. Citizenship relates to one’s legal status, obligation and rights with relation to the state while membership is equated to one’s social status in one or more communities and the moral responsibility one owes.
However, there are instances where the lines between the two blur such as when one studies nationalism. The difficulty in distinguishing between the political and social can be best highlighted in this scenario since citizenship and membership are confounded. The west has had a surge of nationalist aspirations that are reminiscent of early 20th century Europe. Such developments have had significant ramifications not only to the wests political structure but also its social dynamics.
In conclusion, the study of politics can be summed up as the study of influence and the influential while the philosophy of politics justifies ones preference. Politics by nature is divisive as it magnifies our cultural, ideological, economic and environmental differences. It is however an integral part of human organization determining our structures of power and allocation of resources. While a standard definition remains elusive, its role in our daily lives remains vividly clear.
The Southern Strategy
The southern strategy is a long gone republican electoral strategy which was steered by ethnic profiling, intended to expand support base among the white voters in the southern United States. The strategy focused on appealing to racial discrimination of African Americans. It was a move that took advantage of the racial polarization in the 1950s and 1960s. the Civil rights Movements and putting aside of the Jim Crow laws had deepened racial tensions and the then Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon, developed such a strategy which would successfully realign white conservative voters into ditching the Democratic party.
From the culmination of reconstruction to the commencement of the civil rights era, the national Democratic Party made room for segregationist members, thereby dominating the southern states. However, in the 1950s and 1960s, Democrats opted to embrace the civil rights movement and this cost them the white southern votes. While this was happening, the Republican Party woed disaffected white conservatives with the “southern strategy.” Nixon and Philips persistently rallied “From now on, Republicans are never going to get more than 10 or 20% of the Negro vote. Nothing more than we need.” And as a result, a rift was created.
While many perceive the southern strategy to be a reality, some scholars, analysts and scientists have termed the ideology as myth. Richard Johnston and Byron Shafer in their book “The End of Southern Exceptionalism” question the basis of the southern strategy. While explaining the occurrences of the 60s, they argue that the shift of the southerners from the Democratic to Republican Party was never overwhelmingly a question of race but that of economic growth. The South underwent a transformation in the post war era from being a backward region to an engine of the national economy thus giving rise to a wealthy but sizable suburban class (Johnston and Shafer). As would be expected, the class then started backing the party which best portrayed their economic interests.
However, the critic fails to stand. While the scholars uphold their economic preference argument, they acknowledge the racial differences that existed at the time. Trying to argue it out, Shafer claims that “many whites in the South aggressively opposed liberal Democrats on race issues. “But when folks went to the polling booths, they voted by their economic preferences, not racial preferences.” Furthermore, working class whites in other regions stayed true to the democrats until the 90s when there was a national shift in congressional voting. As such, the argument on economic preference fails to hold.
Accordingly, the Southern Strategy succeeded even beyond Nixon’s expectations. It hastened a political alignment which separated the Democratic solid north. Evidently, in 1980, Ronald Reagan swept the entire South except for the state of Georgia, which was Jimmy Carter’s home. Additionally, in 1994, the Republican Party took over the congress after a gain of 19 House seats in the Southern states.
Two generations after the southern strategy’s adoption and the Deep South is reliably a Republican zone. Republicans have benefitted a virtual lock in the House as a result. The southern strategy is even praised for making Donald Trump possible. In states like South Carolina, the president benefited from the GOP’s longstanding appeal to racism. There has been shifts in strategy, like in the 90s and early 2000, intended to draw support from the African-American voters. However, the southern strategy seems to be encrypted in the mind of most voters and many will make decisions based on their racial affiliations.
Various Organizations that Fund Campaigns
The financing of electoral campaigns is governed by the campaign finance law as formulated by the Congress and enforced by the Federal Electoral Commission. The Federal Elections Commission sets the limit on the sources and amount to be contributed to fund elections. In as much as most of campaign funding is always private, qualifying presidential candidates have the ability to acquire public financing for both the primaries and the general elections. There are eligibility requirements supposed to be met so as to qualify for a government subsidy. Such are always restricted to spending a limited amount of money.
The persons who fund federal office campaigns can be classified into four different categories. First is one of small individual contributors (notably those who contribute up to $200), large individual contributors (who contribute at least $200), political action committees and self-financing.
A list of top organizations which funded the 2016 elections include the following: For republicans and conservatives were Las Vegas Sands, Adelson Drug Clinic, Uline Inc, Senate Leadership Fund, One Nation, Republian Governors Association, Mountaire Corporation, Stephens Group, Starr Companies, ABC Supply, Chicago Cubs, Citadel LLC and Koch Industriues. As for democrats and liberals were Fahr LLC, Paloma Partners, Houston Texans, Service Employees International Union, Newsweb Corporation, Priorities USA Action, Saban Capital Group, American Federation of State Employees, NextGen Climate Action, American Federation of Teachers, Soros Fund Management, National Education assn., Laboros Union, Carpenters Jointers Union, Bloomberg LP and Pritzker Group. Organizations such as Renaissance Technologies and National Association of Realtors had an almost fifty-fifty contribution towards the campaign course for both parties.
These organizations contribute millions of dollars into the campaign course to federal candidates, political action committees, parties, Carey committees and federal 527 organizations. There have been arguments that the move to back candidates through organizations is a move towards oligarchy, with the parties feeling entitled to their campaign sponsors.
So, is the Country an Oligarchy?
Yes. The United States is an oligarchy. An oligarchy is a form of government where a small group of people have control of the country and this is exactly what the united states is. There are top economic elites and organized groups standing for business interests which have substantial independent impact on the federal government’s policy, while the many average and low class citizens and mass-based interest groups have virtually little or no independent influence. Precisely, the wealthy few have the ability to move policy, while the average American has little power.
The idea of categorizing the United States as an oligarchy other than a democracy may appear absurd. Democracy is the rule of the people by the people. This is definitely not happening in America. While Americans are accorded the right to vote, freedom of speech, freedom of association and other features central to domestic governance, policymaking is entirely dominated by the elite business class and a number of affluent citizens. When majority of American citizens disagree with ideologies of economic elites, they generally lose. Factually, the strong status quo bias makes it overly difficult for even a fairly large majority of Americans to get policy change. This is according to answers given to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on public policy issues by Professors Martina Gilens and Benjamin I.
Voter Participation in the United States
The United States’ voting is similar to that of a lot of the democracies. The leaders are chosen by the people to represent them. However, it has a twist in the manner in which the president is elected. This paper will expound on the different ways that the voters in the United States take part in the election.
Casting their Ballot
This is a right that has been provided for under the Twelfth amendment. Each citizen has the power to cast one vote for the federal legislators and the local representatives. Provided that on individual meets the requirements to become a voter, they can go on the election day and choose their preferred leader. These include factors such as being registered and being of the required age of 18 years. There are different ways that individuals are able to be registered in the United States. It varies from one state to the other. Some states have clearly stipulated time frames that individuals can be registered. After that period, one cannot be registered to take part in the elections. Some allow for the election date registration, automatic registration, whereas other states do not require any registration for one to take part in the elections. After casting their ballot, they will compute the results and the candidate who garners the most will be chosen as the representative. They directly vote for the Senator and their House Representatives.
Choosing their Electors
The Twelfth Amendment provides that the President and the Vice-President are to be chosen by the electoral college. These are individuals who are elected in a two-step process. The political parties choose one representative who is supposed to represent them on the election date. On the election date, the members of public come out and elect their preferred candidate. On the election date, Second Tuesday of August after every 4 years, these individuals will have their say in determining who will be the country’s next president. Therefore, the voters participate indirectly in the process of determining the President and the Vice President. In addition, these electors have recently been seen to be a clear representation of the citizens of the country. They have always voted according to the state’s popular vote.
Participation in the campaigns and debates
During the campaign period, the different candidates will always call for campaigns to listen to whatever the candidate brings to the table. Therefore, they will gauge whether they will choose their best candidate for the seat. Different bodies, organize presidential debates in order for the Americans to understand whose policies will be the best for the country. It is not part of the election processes but at the moment it is part of the De Facto election processes. These may be debates that are for the whole country or dealing with particular target groups such as the military and the youth. Therefore, the candidate comes up with different ways how they will deal with these individuals. At the local level, the candidates always call for public meetings. These are organized in order for the members of the public to come and interact with the candidates from a personal level. They air out their grievances and see how they will deal with their personal problems.
Conclusively, Voters can participate in the elections either directly or indirectly. Therefore, candidates are mandated to try to please them as a way of getting their votes on the election date.