UT government

UT government professor Sean Theriault argues in his new book, “The Gingrich Senators: The Roots of Partisan Warfare in Congress,“ that the delay in senate processes is due to a small group of senators, which has created a more hyper-partisan atmosphere in the United States Senate. 

This has resulted in a slower process of passing bills, according to Theriault. He said he arrived at this argument through years of researching, after writing two previous books on the United States Congress. Theriault said he wanted to figure out how the United States House of Representatives practices blocking or promoting legislation flowed into the Senate after 1978. 

Through his research, he identified Republicans who moved from the House to the Senate as the ones who brought hyper-partisian attitudes. The move began in 1978 when Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, was first elected to Congress.

The current senators today who he calls “Gingerich Senators” include Rick Santorum, Jim Inhofe and Tom Corbett.

Theriault said he came to his conclusion by looking at roll call votes and who was sponsoring amendments, following Gingrich’s lead. His research went so far as to figure which senators participated in a secret Santa tradition and frequently appeared on Sunday morning talk show aimed at specific demographics.

“In both parties, 70 percent of members participated, but within this group of senators the number is 20 percent,” Theriault said.

UT government professor Brian Jones said he agreed with the book, and believes representatives serving with Gingrich in the House were later elected to the Senate, and brought with them a dimissive attitude from the House.

“This is a fine book bringing a very different perspective to legislative analysis,” Jones said. “It will be read and discussed by political scientists and any and all interested in American legislative politics.”

Theriault said in order for the United States to break away from the effect of the Gingrich Senators, the public needs to elect representatives who are problem solvers, rather than those who only have ideals that are similar to their own.

But not everyone believes the Senate has become more hyper-partisan. UT College Republicans President Danny Zeng said it comes down to perception. 

“The media defines what is more conservative and what is more liberal,” Zeng said. 

Theriault said he is currently working on a textbook about the role of the Tea Party in the United States.

Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican vice presidential candidate, will square off in the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2012 election season Thursday night.

The 90-minute debate, moderated by ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz, will cover both foreign and domestic topics. This debate comes a week after the first presidential debate in which Romney and Obama sparred on domestic policy. According to a CNN/ORC International survey, 67 percent of people who watched the debate said Romney won compared to the 25 percent that said Obama won.

In terms of election implications, UT government professor David Prindle said that in his opinion, the vice presidential debate will likely have no effect on the outcome of the election.

“Barring some unforeseen mega-gaffe, it’s just entertainment and won’t change a single vote,” Prindle said. “I can imagine a situation where somebody’s vote might be changed if Paul Ryan says, ‘I only agreed to be Mitt Romney’s running mate so I could sleep with his wife.’ That might bring in a few votes from the Kardashians.”

Following the first debate, Romney saw a positive bump in both national and battleground polls. In Gallup’s daily tracking poll three days before the first debate, Obama maintained a five-point lead over Romney. After the debate the two candidates were tied.

The vice presidential debate will begin at 8 p.m. at Centre College in Danville, Ky. The second presidential debate will be held Oct. 16.

Quotes to Note

“We remember September 11th not out of a desire to relive the sadness and anger of that time but to commemorate the good we saw in its aftermath — the acts of heroism, the compassion, the expressions of worldwide solidarity.”
— UT President William Powers Jr. on his blog Tower Talk on Friday.

“We witnessed heroic rescue efforts on 9/11, and I ask all Texans to pause in a spirit of remembrance for those who gave their lives on that day. I also ask Texans to recognize the first responders putting themselves in harm’s way right now to protect the lives and property of residents during one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in our state’s history.”
— Gov. Rick Perry in a statement released Sunday.

“Lastly, terrorists want you to worry. This is their No. 1 objective. Since they cannot defeat the West militarily, they carry out horrific attacks against random civilian targets which aim is to instill fear in the hearts of each and every one of us. ... [W]e should always remember that the best counterterrorism strategy is not to let them gain the upper hand in this mind game.”
— Ami Pedahzur, UT government and Middle Eastern Studies professor, on whether America is safer since 9/11, according to a Sept. 2 University press release.

“What we found was immediately after Sept. 11, the entire group of people changed in the way they were talking. They became less self-focused and exhibited more of a sense of community. They started using words like ‘we’ at very high rates.”
— UT psychology professor James Pennebaker, commenting Sunday to KXAN News on his research of language use among American bloggers in the week after 9/11.

“On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it is tempting to want to linger on the part about ‘being right,’ but it’s more important to focus on why ‘it didn’t matter’ because we are still right, and it still doesn’t matter. Understanding this is necessary to shape a realistic political program for the next decade — as bad as the past 10 years have been, the next 10 are likely to be worse, and we need to speak bluntly about these political/economic/social realities in the United States.”
— Journalism professor Robert Jensen, in an article published Sunday on Jadaliyya.com, a website produced by the Arab Studies Institute.

“[After 9/11], there was a feeling of community I had never experienced and have not experienced since.”
— Robert Hutchings, dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, at the “Conversation 9/11: A Decade After, Looking Forward” panel held on campus Friday.

“Regarding 9/11, the government has won more than it has lost over all.”
— UT law professor Bobby Chesney at the panel.

Although the Tea Party played a key role getting Republicans elected in the 2010 elections, four political observers at a panel Tuesday said they are uncertain how the group will fare in 2012 or what positions they will endorse.

About 70 students attended the panel discussion that included political consultant Jordan Berry, Texas Tribune reporter Reeve Hamilton, UT government lecturer James Henson and Taurie Randermann, chief of staff for freshman Tea Party candidate Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas.

Henson identified ideological differences between Tea Party Republicans and other Republicans. Tea Party supporters are 13-percent less likely to support an increased tax on alcohol than non-Tea Party Republicans and 18-percent more willing to legalize marijuana, he said.

“[The Tea Partiers] are finding out that they’re not going to get what they want as easily as they thought,” Hamilton said. “They need to figure out what their relationship with the Republicans is.”

Four Tea Party candidates won House seats after the 2010 general election. Although many of the Tea Party candidates lost their primary elections, their supporters shifted their votes to endorse Republican candidates, which led the Republican supermajority in the House, Randermann said.

She said despite differences in ideology, many Republicans in office are careful to hear out Tea Party grievances and strive to represent their initiatives in votes.

Berry said consultants worked with Tea Party organizers to help them transform their efforts into a power that would lead to more conservative policy changes.

“You’re going to start seeing a lot of legislation that will excite the Tea Party,” he said. “You guys are going to start to see concealed handguns on your campus by this time next year.”

History senior Jon Andropoulos, who attended the panel, said he has always been politically active.

“I think most of the rhetoric surrounding the movement is a bit sensationalist and unbalanced,” he said

Austin Tea Party organizer Heather Liggett said she wishes the media would talk to members of the group instead of about them. She said that her organization is a group of stay-at-home moms, retired teachers and other citizens who believe the government has grown too large.