Who Won the Iraq War?

by Ali Rawaf

Last month, President Obama announced the end of the Iraq war, saying the last few thousand troops would withdraw by Dec. 2. While polls show a majority of Americans support the president’s decision, Iraqis have become significantly concerned over increased meddling from Iran. The State Department has warned Iran against interfering in Iraqi inter- nal affairs after the troops leave and also told the Iraqis that Iran will not be a problem in the future. The truth is that U.S. officials underestimate Iranian influence and control in Iraq and the region.

Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, who didn’t win the last elections, was able to form a government only because Iran, a Shiite state, pressured the Shiite groups in the country to rally around him and give him the vote of confidence. Al-Maliki, a divisive figure even amongst the Shiites, has been returning the favor to Iran ever since. He has sent the Iraqi army to crack down on Mujahidee Khalk, an Iranian opposition group that has been based in Iraq for a couple of decades. Despite calls from international human rights groups to halt the attacks on the group’s camp, Al-Maliki still periodically sends Iraqi troops to intimidate them. He has vowed to remove the group from the country at the end of the year.

Iranian influence goes well beyond Iraq. In Syria, Iran has been transferring weapons to the Assad regime and abet- ting Assad’s crackdown on protestors opposing the regime. Last month, California-based BlueCoat said that internet surveillance devices which were sold to the Iraqi government were later found to be used by the Syrian regime to crack down on protestors. How did that happen? The Iranian regime bought those devices for Syria under the name of the Iraqi Communications Ministry.

Al-Maliki is also returning a favor to Iran by keeping quiet about the developments in Syria. As the Syrian regime employed the army to crack down on its people, Al-Maliki hosted a group of Syrian officials and entrepreneurs to strengthen economic ties with the Syrian regime. And recently, Al-Maliki’s foreign minister said Baghdad is committed to preventing any action against Iran.

In the Palestinian territories, Iran funds Hamas, the militant group blocking Palestinian-Israeli peace, and Hezbolla, the anti-western, militant Shiite group in Lebanon. In Yemen, Iran funds extremist, militant Shiite groups.

If Iran is this influential without nuclear weapons, I can only imagine what happens when Tehran acquires such weapons.

If the U.S. follows through with a complete troop withdrawal, Iran would be the sole winner of the Iraq war. The war would have only cleared the way for Iran to exert more influence in the region. After the president’s announcement of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, an Iranian delegation visited Iraq and signed economic and political agreements with the Iraqi government, whereas there have been mere talks about such agreements between the United States and Iraq.

Iraq’s strategic location in the Middle East would have served as a good check on the encroaching Iranian regime. Now, Iraq can’t even protect its airspace and its borders. While a prosperous and democratic Iraq would set a good example for the band of countries where people are demanding democracy, a failed one would serve as poster child for how democracy can fail in the Middle East. There is still a chance for negotiations to resume and possibly leave a couple of thousand troops in Iraq. If these negotiations fail, Iraq will be in the hands of Iran and the lost lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of American soldiers would have been in vain.

Italian Given Worst Job in Europe

by Ben Carliner

The Onion famously announced the election of Barack Obama with the headline: Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job. It noted that the position “comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it.” On November 1 an Italian, Mario Draghi, became President of the European Central Bank, a job so terrible that the only other candidate for the position — Germany’s Axel Weber — had to resign as head of the Bundesbank in order to avoid being appointed the ECB’s new boss.

How did this job become such a hot potato? The Eurozone is experiencing a classic run. The Greek debt crisis was a shock to the capital markets. Doubts began to grow about other borrowers, and investors began to run for the exits. These fears were compounded by a design flaw at the heart of the monetary union. Eurozone members all suffer from Original Sin — they borrow in what is effectively a foreign currency — leaving governments, and not just banks, vulnerable to runs.

Solvent but illiquid borrowers are now at risk of collapse simply because investors are scared. They are not sure which banks are hiding large losses on their balance sheets, or whether Italy will be able to grow its way out of its debt burden. Such doubts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If borrowing costs keep rising, illiquidity could lead to default. Runs are not a new phenomenon. We know how to stop them: a lender of last resort — the very raison d’être of central banking.

The ECB has, unfortunately, been unwilling to explicitly backstop sovereign governments. Why? One possibility is moral hazard, or the risk that the ECB will let politicians off the hook and allow them to avoid meaningful reforms. Once again, the crux of the issue is confidence. Perhaps the real reason the ECB has been so reluctant to backstop sovereigns is because it doesn’t trust Europe’s politicians.

In a monetary union, countries that lose competitiveness cannot rely on a currency devaluation to bring down the prices of their goods on world markets. They must devalue internally — by cutting wages and making structural reforms. Politicians who hope to be reelected are often reluctant to take such harsh medicine.

Earlier this summer, yields on Italian bonds began to rise as contagion spread to the world’s third largest bond market. This intensified pressure on the Italian government to enact a broad package of economic reforms and austerity measures.

In the meantime, liquidity began drying up for many European banks, forcing the ECB to take decisive action by purchasing sovereign bonds. Fundamental structural reforms were put off soon after the ECB’s intervention succeeded in (temporarily) driving down yields.

Did this experience convince the ECB that whatever negotiating leverage it had over national governments would be lost as soon as it credibly committed to backstopping sovereign debt?

If so, this is a dangerous game the ECB is playing. What Europe needs now is confidence, not confidence games. The ECB is not wrong to be worried about moral hazard. But there is a word to describe the ECB’s negotiating tactic of threatening to allow financial mayhem: it is a bluff.

In the end, maybe this is why the job of heading up the ECB became such a hot potato. Any threat to allow EU capital markets to disintegrate in a systemic financial crisis is no threat at all. The ECB will have to step in and buy massive amounts of sovereign bonds. Mr Draghi will surely come in for harsh criticism for doing what is necessary, but the ECB has little negotiating leverage over national governments, and its bluffs will be called.

Ben Carliner received his master’s degree in 2004. He is a writer and economic analyst living in Washington, DC. You can read his blog on economics, finance and monetary policy at bencarliner.blogspot.com.

From the 40 Acres to the Public School Classroom

by Harvey Mayton

Like many baby boomers, with retirement close at hand, I have been thinking back to the beginning of my career which starts in the Government Department at The University of Texas at Austin. As a typical college- bound high school student in the 1960s, I was only interested in where I would spend my four years of col- lege, not in the rest of my life. I was excited about being part of the UT experience. Fortunately for me, it was easier to be admitted then and I got my wish quickly. It proved to be a great place for me. I became involved in the Longhorn Band, loved being in the midst of the 60’s cultural phenomena in Austin, and, after a while chose government as my major field of study. This is where my future really began.

I thrived in the liberal arts and humanities environment. I learned to think critically, reason logically, question almost everything in both my life and our country’s past and future, and broaden my horizons to an incredible extent. Fortunately for me, the intellectual and conceptual connections I made, under the guidance of outstanding and influential professors, are still with me today.

With a high quality liberal arts education came many advantages. Unfortunately, there was one draw- back: job marketability. But, with every problem there is a solution. For me, that came in the form of gradu- ate school admission and a teaching assistantship in government. This not only gave me the opportunity to further my education and provided me with another two years in an environment I loved, but ultimately led me to my career in public education.

Little did I know at the time, but teaching freshmen government students on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:00 a.m. would become the best time of my week. Moving from the student’s side of the desk to the teacher’s was not easy or comfortable at first, but I surely grew with it. I gained experiences and insights that have served me in my public school career for 35 years.

As a teacher and administrator in public education, I am continually aware of the communication and relationship skills which I gained during my years of teaching freshmen government at UT that are a crucial part of my everyday school life. Prior to this time, I had given no thought to what was required to make an effective teacher; I assumed that it just happened magically. What I found, through trial and error, was that teaching is both a skill-based and relationship-based endeavor.

True learning, I think, is best seen in hindsight. It is fitting now that I relook at my early teaching years while in graduate school as the genesis of a long and very rewarding career in public education. It is more important now, however, that I look toward continuing to encourage and nurture our best students into such experiences and careers. As in evidence in the daily media, public education in Texas is at a crossroads for both funding and support from the citizenry. As a practitioner for 35 years, I can attest to the personal rewards and societal value of public education. Additionally, as a supporter of UT and the Government Department, I fervently hope we can not only keep this avenue attractive for our graduates, but also make it as rewarding a choice for them as it has been for me.

Harvey Mayton obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in government from The University of Texas at Austin (1969 and 1971). Since 1976, he has been a public school teacher and administrator in the Austin area.

Business Implications of Government Action: Inside Dodd-Frank

by Cady North

Get ready for regulation. Even if you’re not involved with the financial services industry, what is happening in the nation’s capital with the Dodd-Frank law is fascinating. Now that the lawmaking phase is over, financial regulators are proposing more than 300 new regulations, with 100 final rules alone coming this summer. It reminds me that having a deep understanding of how government and public policy works can be a very valuable skill, especially as folks in Washington try to figure out how to prevent another major financial crisis in the future.

My recent Bloomberg Government study, “Dodd-Frank Act Creates 122 Ways to Influence Regulators,” scoured the now 8-month-old Dodd-Frank law and found that it will create 122 new divisions, offices, advisory committees and consultations within the federal government to implement the law. That makes one new office or consultation for every seven pages of the 849-page document.

The Treasury Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies are tasked to work together to identify and remove risks that could destabilize the financial system. Aside from trying to stop too-big-to fail banks from bringing down the economy, the law gives regulators other new authorities. For instance, agencies must set up procedures to police financial products like over-the-counter derivatives, credit cards, mortgages and firms like insurers, rating agencies, hedge funds or broker-dealers.

As a result of the new regulations, the job market in Washington isn’t hurting. The President’s FY 2012 Budget released in February requested funding to hire 5,000 employees at six financial regulators by the end of the fiscal year, as they implement the Dodd-Frank law and conduct their regulatory duties. Some agencies, like the SEC, have delayed implementation of some provisions because of funding constraints and the lack of a final FY 2011 appropriations bill.

The new government agencies and offices will range in size from a 1000+ employee Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to dozens of smaller Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion that each of the financial regulators and Federal Reserve district banks must create.

There are three key takeaways from this. First, regulators are expected to hire staff, find or furnish office space and draft rules that will be implemented over the course of several years. They will have to balance all these new duties while continuing strong enforcement over the financial markets and banks.

Second, the new federal agencies and offices represent important opportunities for companies to provide information that could influence the regulations yet to be written. Affected companies and their trade associations will be spending big bucks to decipher the rules, write comment letters and quantify potential impacts.

Finally, as these rules are implemented, there will undoubtedly be costs and benefits to the private sector. As a result, firms could change business strategies, make decisions to modify products and services or experience revenue impacts. There will likely be winners as well as losers, but it could be years before all the impacts of this law are fully understood.

As the implementation continues, it’s worth watching through your UT government eyes to consider the ways that politics and regulation intersect with the private sector to change behavior. In this example, there seems to be an unlimited number of potential scenarios that could have impacts, both positive and negative, on the ultimate goal of the legislation, which was to put a halt to the types of activities that caused the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s.

Cady North received her B.A. in government in 2004 and serves as a senior finance policy analyst for Bloomberg Government in Washington, DC. She analyzes the business implications of financial laws and regulations, and publishes her findings on BGOV.com. In the past, she led Financial Executives International’s outreach to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Act, and served in various roles at the state of Texas in both Austin and Washington.

Texas Redistricting – To Whom Go the Spoils?

by Ernest McGowen

Tom Delay has moved on from the Texas political stage but this current round of redistricting may be no less contentious. The traditional goal of redistricting in a one-party dominated government is increasing party strength. Given the supermajority of Republicans in the state House of Representatives, we should not expect 2011 to be any different. What will be different, however, is the population explosion in Texas, the groups that have fueled this increase, and the geographical regions in which they reside. If Tom Delay’s mantra was that in our Republican state the congressional delegations should look Republican, what happens when much of the population increase is amongst traditional Democratic groups in Democratic areas?

If we look at the presidential popular vote from Texas in the last four cycles, Delay’s words may come back to haunt him. After a lukewarm 49% Republican share in 1996, Texas became solidly Republican in the next two cycles with a 59% Republican share in 2000 and 61% in 2004. However, the Republican share fell to 55% in 2008 and Democrats got their largest vote share (43.68%) since 1996. Yet these gains have not translated into a shift in party identification. The number of Texans identifying as Democrats did increase in 2008, but so did the number of Republicans, with slightly more independent identifiers leaning Republican.

The question is whether the new districts will be drawn to reflect the new elected officials or the new population? According to the Census most of the Texas population gains have come from Latinos and African Americans. The Latino population has grown by 42%, the African-American population by 22%. Compare this to the modest 4.2% of growth in the White population.

If we look at population growth by county, the numbers become starker. Only 22 of 253 counties (8.6%) saw any kind of decline in their Latino populations, and 6.7% saw their Latino populations more than double. For African Americans the average decline by county was only 17.8% while the average increase was 87.9%. Whites saw an average decline of 6.4% and an average increase of only 15.2%. The White population is stagnant, Latinos are fast moving into Texas and African Americans are concentrating in metropolitan areas.

If we look at the cities and surrounding counties with the largest population growth (in order) Ft. Worth, Laredo, Plano, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, we see that these were the areas with the largest Democratic vote shares in 2008. These particular cities grew at an average of 22.2% and Obama received an average of 52% of the vote. Even the traditional Republican counties of Tarrant, Williamson, and Ft. Bend had an average Obama vote share of 44.8%, higher than the state average.

So while it is clear by almost any measure that Texas is still a Republican identifying state, it is also clear that most of the population gains that have produced the four new seats have come from minorities in urban areas, a majority of whom voted for Obama.

What is unclear is who will get the state’s new four seats. The numbers could allow another majority African American seat in the Houston area, but that is unlikely. If three of the four are majority Latino and one of the seats should come from Southern Texas, Republicans may appease both sides given the recent defection of Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg. In this state, it is difficult to bet against the conservatives in power, and there are good reasons to believe that the Republicans may once again (remorselessly) rule the day.

Ernest McGowen is an assistant instructor of government. He earned a government B.A. with honors in 2003, took a master’s degree in 2008 and will receive his Ph.D. this year. He becomes assistant professor of political science next academic year at the University of Richmond.

Political Ideology and Expression on Campus

by Lauren Ratliff

Colleges are entrusted not only with the education of future leaders but also with the de- velopment of civically engaged citizens. Among many other things, colleges aim to shape students’ political beliefs, encourage them to explore ideas and challenge perspectives, and provide them with opportunities for honest dialogue around many of the political issues facing the world today. Public college campuses should be places that encourage political dialogue and discussion and, more importantly, where all ideologies are respected.

Thanks to the 2010 Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey,*  we now have a snapshot of student political leanings at The University of Texas at Austin and whether those students feel free to express their political beliefs on campus. It is often supposed that Texas students are more conservative than their national peers, but that a liberal bias pervades college campuses in general. Do these speculations hold up to the evidence?

According to the 2010 SERU, there is indeed a greater percentage of students that report identifying as conservative on the UT-Austin campus compared with other campuses across the country. However, at UT-Austin there are still more students identifying as liberal than conservative, and a plurality of students reported identifying with moderates.

Translated into partisanship, a plurality of UT-Austin students considered themselves Democrats – 40% – and a minority considered themselves Republican – 27%. Nationally, 51% of students considered themselves Democrats and 15% considered themselves Republicans. Nationally and at UT-Austin, 34% of students considered themselves as Independent or Other. Independents at UT-Austin lean more toward the Democratic Party than the Republican Party – 63% versus 38%, compared to 74% and 25% nationally.

The 2010 SERU asked students whether they feel free to express their political beliefs on campus. A higher percentage of UT-Austin students either strongly agreed or agreed with this statement than their na- tional peers – 69% compared to 62%. Yet, both at UT-Austin and nationally, the extent to which students feel free to express their political beliefs on campus varies according to political orientation and partisan affiliation. Also, while conservative students reported feeling more marginalized than their liberal peers, the strength of this difference varies greatly between UT-Austin and the nation. Students who identified themselves as con- servatives are less likely to agree than those students who identified themselves as liberals that they feel free to express their political beliefs on campus, but conservative students at UT-Austin are more likely than conservative students nationally to strongly agree that they feel free to express these beliefs.

In conclusion, although most students reported that their political orientation is moderate, of those remaining, more students reported being liberal than conservative. UT-Austin students identified more with con- servatives than their national peers. On average, the majority of students around the nation feel free to express their political beliefs on campus, although conservatives are less likely to agree with this than their liberal peers. UT-Austin students feel freer to express themselves politically than students at peer institutions.

*In 2010, The University of Texas at Austin participated in a pilot administration of the Student Experience in the Re- search University (SERU) survey. The SERU is a survey administered by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California-Berkeley. All undergraduate students who were enrolled at UT-Austin last spring were eligible to take the SERU, and we received an approximate 21% response rate (N=7,365). However, because only 15% of students persisted through the whole instrument, the response rate is lower for some items than for others. In all cases, UT-Austin students are compared to students’ at all nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California system, Rutgers University, University of Florida, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of Minnesota, University of Oregon, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Lauren Ratliff graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2010 with a degree in government and English. She currently works as a Research Associate at the university and in the Fall of 2010 will begin the polticial science Ph.D. program at The Ohio State University. She plans to study political parties and look more closely at why and how party change occurs.

Next Stop, Graduate School

By Rex W. Douglass

My dissertation advisors like to joke that Ph.D. programs are vocational schools. You enter relatively young, inexperienced, and with a general curiosity about the world, but with few skills. Over five years, you learn how to answer questions in a rigorous way, you hone in on a specific gap in human knowledge, and you become socialized to interact and work with others in your field, so that one day, if you are lucky, you might get an actual job.

A bachelor’s degree in Government from The University of Texas at Austin can be a gateway to many different careers, but for me it meant going on to a Ph.D. program in political science. For anyone considering a similar path, there are a number of helpful things to know about both graduate school and the opportunities available to undergraduates at UT-Austin.

The narrow gap that I have focused on for my dissertation at Princeton is whether wars generate lasting changes in the local politics of the areas in which they are fought and, if so, how? If there is the potential to anger and politically energize an opponent’s population, how should that be taken into account by policy makers when they decide whether or not to go to war? My search for evidence has led me to dusty military campaign maps from American and European archives, county voting records from the 1800s, and interviews with military officers and civilians in Afghanistan.

Training in the two tools of the trade that I use most often, statistical inference and historical archival research, is readily available to UT undergrads. I started with the department’s undergraduate introduction to statistics and continued with the next two graduate courses in the sequence. The Government Department has a number of professors that do excellent historical research, but I also found great mentors at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and in the History Department. Every student should experience researching at the LBJ Library at least once, and I recommend strongly considering studying World War Two in the History Department’s Normandy Scholars Program.

The department’s option to write a thesis is a must if you are considering graduate school. The thesis helps you decide if research is something that interests you and also gives you a specific point of reference for befriending professors and eventually asking for recommendation letters. If you can, write the thesis a year early and polish it for your writing sample. This also frees up time for studying for the GRE and preparing the surprisingly time-consuming graduate school applications.

The size of the Government Department is an advantage to students who want to pursue research. There are often professors in need of paid research assistance. There is large cohort of smart graduate students who were just recently in the same position you will find yourself in. There are multiple venues for presenting your ideas, like the Junior Fellows Research Program. Not to mention, UT-Austin has sources for undergraduate research funding, like the Bridging Disciplines Program, Rapoport King Thesis Scholarship, and many more.

In sum, UT-Austin has something for everyone, including Government majors considering going on to graduate school. Whether you want to get a doctorate or a master’s in public policy, UT-Austin is well-positioned to help you on your journey. I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to study there.

Rex Douglass received his B.A. in government and history in 2007. Douglass is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. His research interests include the strategic interaction between civilians and military forces during war, the domestic politics of arming decisions, and the long term political consequences of military campaigns.

Ballonteering for Barack

By Stuart Hersh

2008 was the year I volunteered for the Barack Obama for President campaign. I knew from previous campaigns that this would be hard work. I never knew I would have a ball working as a volunteer. So I invented a new word to describe the experience of having a ball while volunteering for a political campaign: ‘ballonteering’.

Before the 2008 presidential campaign began, I knew who I was going to support for the Democratic Party nomination. In 2004, I had supported Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina for President. His talk of two Americas and his life story resonated with me. John Edwards’ father was a factory worker. My Dad had worked as an electrician in a textile mill and a tire plant for more than 30 years. Edwards spoke about my America, where many families and friends lived paycheck to paycheck. They had to choose between rent/mortgage, food, medical care, heating and cooling, water and lights. So when John Edwards announced that he would run for President in 2008, I knew that I would support him financially and in other ways. I had been a precinct and county delegate for Edwards in 2004, and would try to do this again.

In the summer of 2007, I attended Edward’s packed rally at Scholz’s in Austin with my partner Roxann and one of my sons (Alan). I was thrilled to see Edwards in person. Both Roxann and Alan had attended Obama’s rally of more than 20,000 on Town Lake a few months earlier, and I had chosen to stay home. With Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as the likely frontrunners for the Democratic Party nomination, I expected John Edwards to be competitive in Iowa and other states. I expected Edwards and other candidates to stay in the race until the convention in Denver. I thought Edwards’ supporters would play a key role in choosing the Democratic Party nominee for president at the Denver convention. Like so many assumptions I would make during this campaign, I was wrong!

John Edwards finished second to Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses. He could not win New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina. His poor showings meant that the campaign could not raise enough money to stay competitive in the caucuses and primaries. So when Edwards dropped out of the race before Super Tuesday, my choice was to support either Clinton or Obama.

Since I was a member and former officer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1624 (the city employees’ union), it was logical for me to support the presidential candidate that AFSCME supported. AFSCME was providing the Clinton campaign with significant resources in the primaries, and there was the possibility I could work in the Clinton campaign as funding for my City job went away. The conventional wisdom was that Clinton would lock up the nomination by Super Tuesday, and it would be to my political advantage to join the Clinton campaign before Super Tuesday.

But I decided to support Obama because his campaign was not the conventional Democratic Party politics I had seen for more than four decades. I read his first book, and his story resonated with me just as John Edwards’ story had four years earlier. My decision to support Obama was clinched when my son Alan decided to go to New Mexico with a friend to work for Obama in the days leading up to Super Tuesday. I told my fellow AFSCME members that I was going to work for Obama.

This is an excerpt from a much longer memoir chronicling campaign work in New Mexico.

Stuart Hersh received his M.A. in government in 1975. Hersh is a teacher of American Government, Labor History, and Building Codes. He worked in Building Inspection, Code Enforcement, and Affordable Housing for the City of Austin for more than 30 years. He is the author of three books (Remembering Uncle Harry; Ballonteering for Barack – Tales from Albuquerque; and DUH – Designing Unaffordable Housing) and three plays (Austin In DenialAustin 3275, and John Brown from BOB).

The Study and Practice of Politics

By Abril Davila

I have had a strong interest in politics and government ever since I can remember. From a very young age, I have been concerned with civic participation and political leadership. The choice of Government as my major came naturally to me. Yet, despite my deep and innate academic love for this subject, as an undergraduate I still felt I needed to gain first- hand experience in the political profession.

My first opportunity to do so came with my participation in the Government Department internship program. With the outstanding direction of Dr. James Henson, the internship program gives students interested in politics the opportunity to acquire real professional experience in a political organization, while reflecting on their experience academically. The result of this approach is a deeper, and highly personal, understanding of the political profession, contemporary politics, and political leadership.

The political organization I had the pleasure to intern for was the Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate Campaign. As a Noriega intern I had the opportunity to jump into a statewide race for federal office, something I did not take lightly. I initially participated in the minor tasks of most departments of the campaign; these involved blockwalking, phonebanking, staffing campaign events, and participating in some field and communications strategies to increase campaign visibility. It was a priceless opportunity to learn how political campaigns operate from within, but also

to discover my own political capabilities and strengths. During campaign events and fundraisers, it became evident that focusing on the campaign message, and on the dialogue it generates, deeply interested me. Within a few months of working with Team Noriega, I found my campaigning niche – communications and press. I have had the oppor- tunity to continue working in this area of campaigning, especially in the field of Hispanic communications, a topic which I am particularly passionate about. And my experience with the Noriega campaign continues to inform and influence my work.

As the months progressed, I became convinced that political campaigns are just the most amazing workplaces. There is usually a contagious energy emerging from the camaraderie, stimulating exchange of ideas, and the constant anticipation for the next big news, events, and, of course, the next big YouTube clip. Yet, the Spring of 2008 was a particularly special time for Texas politics. Presidential primary contests were in full force at the national

level. And in an unprecedented fashion, it seemed that presidential nominations might not be exclusively determined by the early primaries. As the March 4th Texas Primary approached, political momentum in our state just seemed to grow by the minute. Participating in this particular electoral season gave me the opportunity to understand the role of contemporary political campaigns in a deeper way. I learned that an authentically successful political campaign will utilize modern and traditional tools of political communication to lead a dynamic and constructive conversation about substantive goals. Energizing voters merely for the purpose of winning is just not enough; our civic responsibility entails a larger obligation.

The internship program was an unforgettable, inspiring and constructive experience. It enabled me not only to com- prehend politics more deeply, but to gain a clearer understanding of my personal relationship to the political pro- fession. I highly recommend it to any student interested in transforming their academic knowledge and intellectual convictions into real political action. My participation in the program allowed me to realize that political leadership is not driven by ideology alone, but, as Max Weber wrote, by the “consciousness that life has meaning in the service of a cause.”

Abril Davila received her B.A. in government in 2009. Davila is a Townes Hall scholar and this year joins the 2010 entering class at the University of Texas School of Law.


There’s No Place Like Home

By Mary Josie Blanchard

The Department of the Interior (DOI) was created March 3, 1849, the last day of the Polk Administration, and given a variety of responsibilities previously belonging to the Treasury, State and War Departments. These included such activities as issuing pensions, patents, and land grants; surveying public lands, overseeing Indian Affairs, the Federal Court system, mines and public buildings; and conducting the census. Thus, DOI was to be a “Home Department” to deal with matters within the United States.

For the next several decades, as the government grew, DOI received more and more functions. Functions were as varied as constructing the District of Columbia’s water system; managing hospitals, universities, and the D.C. jail; and exploring and mapping geological and mineral resources. DOI provided lands for homesteads, railroads and land grant colleges. Territorial affairs were assigned to DOI in 1873. Eventually 13 States were created from those territories. DOI also implemented The Indian Allotment Act of 1887, which gave Tribal lands to individual Indians, resulting in the loss of much of the Indian tribal land base.

As the years went by, the DOI also became the ‘Mother of Departments’, as various functions spun off to become the nuclei of other departments. New departments that had their origins in DOI were Agriculture, Labor, Commerce, Energy, Education, and Veterans Affairs.

During the early 20th century, DOI became increasingly the focus of natural resources conservation and public land management. President Theodore Roosevelt set aside major parcels of land that later became National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. In the 1930s and 1940s, large multi-purpose projects supplied water and opened new areas to agriculture. Laws provided for Interior to protect wildlife, to regulate grazing and mining, and to provide citizenship to American Indians.

As steward of 20 percent of the Nation’s lands, DOI now manages mineral and energy development on the Nation’s public lands and Outer Continental Shelf; oversees nationwide coal surface mine land reclamation; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the Western United States; and upholds Federal trust responsibilities to Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives. Additionally, the Department is responsible for wildlife conservation; historic preservation, endangered species conservation; mapping, geological, hydrological and biological science for the Nation; and providing financial and technical assistance to remaining territories.

DOI’s richly diverse missions (e.g., preservation, multiple use, visitation and resource development) are both complementary and potentially conflicting. Moreover, how the land is managed within DOI’s boundaries can affect surrounding communities. Thus, cooperating with State, local and tribal governments and across Federal agencies is a must.

As you can tell, I find working at the Department of the Interior to be fascinating and rewarding.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, not the Department of the Interior.

Mary Josie Blanchard received her B.A. and M.A. in government in 1969 and 1971. Blanchard serves as Deputy Director, Environmental Policy and Compliance, Office of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. She deals with issues associated with environmental impacts, response management, facility compliance, and cleanup of DOI lands. She is recipient of the Department’s Distinguished Service Medal–the highest award bestowed by Interior. 

Stem Cell Research and Texas

By Charles Schotz

Today we are witnessing a tremendous breakthrough in medical science and research. Stem cells have gener- ated unprecedented excitement in medical research because of their well-founded promise to treat many major health issues, a wide range of sporting and physical injuries, and assist in surgery recovery. Stem cells are also the motivation for a young generation of research scientists and the stimulus for new thriving commercial opportunities. The best and the brightest students will seek institutions that are conducting this exciting research, and new technologies developed at our schools will be translated into new businesses.

Stem cell awareness has been growing in Texas and Austin since early 2000. In 2007, several individuals, myself included, with personal commitments to promoting safe and ethical stem cell research and therapy in Texas founded Texans for Stem Cell Research (TSCR). By 2008, TSCR received its 501(c)3 nonprofit designation. This allowed the organization to pursue its primary goal of educating our fellow Texans on stem cell research in Texas.

TSCR educates policymakers and fellow Texans on the medical and potential economic benefits of this re- search. A 2009 economic impact study by Dr. Bernard Weinstein of Southern Methodist University stated that Texas could realize more than 230,000 new jobs and $1.3 billion annually in new state and local taxes from biotech and biomedical companies relocating to the Lone Star State to conduct stem cell research. Considering today’s economic conditions it is imperative that state and academic leaders take advantage of this unique opportunity. By establishing a world class stem cell institute in Texas dedicated to conducting FDA clinically approved trials, Texans can benefit from this research for generations to come.

The University of Texas is at the forefront of stem cell research in Texas. Currently, 206 of the over 450 stem cell clinical trials being conducted in Texas are at UT Health Science Center facilities. These trials include spinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

TSCR is working to help increase the number of these trials and thus the number of people receiving stem cell therapy. As educated alumni of UT and citizens of Texas, it’s in our best interest to support organizations like TSCR, and others across the country, to realize the promise of stem cell research.

Many other states are making strong commitments to stem cell research. Nine other states, including Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, currently fund stem cell research. California leads the way having appropriated, in 2006, $3 billion for 10 years. If Texas is serious about reestablishing itself as a leader in this field, our elected officials should support the University of Texas’ academic and health science centers by giving them the necessary funding to move forward.

University of Texas alumni do not like being second to anyone. But right now we’ve fallen behind eight other states which have recognized the enormous potential of stem cell research. We can continue ignoring reality or choose to rightfully reinstate Texas as a leader in medical research. As a University of Texas alumnus and a founding board member of TSCR, I feel strongly that it is the responsibility of our state leaders, policymakers, and the University of Texas System to take a leadership role and give hope for a better quality of life to more than 1.2 million Texans living with a chronic disease or life altering injury.

Charles Schotz received his B.A. in government in 1967. Schotz manages MTEX LLC, a consultant firm in Aus- tin, and is a founding board member of Texans for Stem Cell Research.

Women in Politics

By Janet K. Boles

Between the time when I taught the first course on women and politics offered at the University of Texas (spring 1975), and my retirement as a professor of political science at Marquette University (spring 2009), the number of women in elected office increased exponentially and women and politics research has emerged as a cutting-edge topic within the profession. When I was choosing a dissertation topic in 1973, my advisor, Robert L. Lineberry, suggested that I write every scholar engaged in gender politics research so as to preempt another study of Equal Rights Amendment ratification. This was very doable at the time. In spring 1978, after I had returned to UT as a visiting professor, student interest in the topic was high; my lower-division course on women and politics enrolled 250 students (with another 250 on the waiting list). And today the American Political Science Associa- tion Section on Women and Politics Research has 630 members, making it the eighth-largest section (of 38) in the discipline.

The number of female elected officials has similarly increased. The 94th Congress (1975-77) had no women in the Senate and only 19 (4%) in the House. Currently women hold 17% of Senate and 16.8% of House seats. There has been equally dramatic growth in the number of female state legislators. Today 24.4% of state legislators are women, compared to 8.1% in 1975. Women are also assuming key leadership positions. Not only is Nancy Pelosi the House Speaker, but women also chair three standing committees in each house. Likewise, 15.1% of state legislative leaders are women, and women chair 23.4% of the standing committees. Women are also far more likely to be appointed by governors and presidents. For example, when Jimmy Carter entered the White House in 1977, only four federal judges were women and only eight women had ever served on the federal bench. In 2008 around 25% of district court judges were women, as were 27% of federal appeals court judges. Two women of course now sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Over time female elected officials and gender politics scholars have developed a symbiotic relationship. As rigorous research and good polling data have shown that many presumed barriers to women’s candidacy (e.g., fundraising, voter bias) are invalid, more women have been emboldened to run for office. And, as the number of women in politics rises, likewise does the legitimacy of women and politics research. In that vein, I was gratified this past year that my department, although still defining my position as one of urban politics, was very interested in also finding someone to teach courses on women and politics. As one colleague put it, “no department worth its salt lacks a gender politics specialist.”

NOTE: Statistics on women in Congress and state legislatures are available at www.cawp.rutgers.edu. Those on women on the federal courts are drawn from an essay posted by Sally Kenney on www.womensenews.org.

Janet K. Boles received her Ph.D. in government in 1976. She is professor emerita, Marquette University, and has published extensively on the feminist movement, women in American politics, and gender policy. Among other publications, she is the author of The Politics of the Equal Rights Amendment and co-author of The A to Z of Feminism.

Words of Wisdom

By Becky Birdwell

At 44, I find my history narrows down to a string of life defining moments – some good, some not so much. And, when asked to write an article for this newsletter, one suggested topic was to describe how my career as a publicist benefitted from my years at UT (‘84-‘88). Obviously a degree from UT carries a lot of weight, but I can narrow it down to one sentence by a great professor of mine. At the time, I had no idea what her words meant to my future, and it’s important to note that it took almost 18 years for the next life defining light bulb to go off before I had the chance to put the first one to use when I joined the world of public relations.

My professor and I sat (my pocket-sized memory tells me it was in Garrison Hall) discussing a recent poor grade on a paper. Government / History / Art History degrees incur a slew of writing components which kept me tied to the typewriter; and, I was shocked when she looked at me very plainly and said, “Becky, you don’t know how to write a proper paragraph.” Basic gram- matical rules escaped me at the time, actually most rules for that matter. Here I was (a junior) at the University of Texas learning how to write a paragraph. This was a perfect example of a mortifying experience that served me beyond measure, and that very moment gave me a voice which I learned how to use to my great advantage. In fact, I always joke that my fingers rapping on keys speak much better than the more traditional use of my mouth. Some might attribute it to the fact that I tend to use little foul language when writing, but I would defend it by a few solid examples of heatedly fired off emails which could make your hair stand on end.

This voice which has long been a part of me is one of human connection that I exercise professionally through writing. PR comes in all forms. My version is the specific ability to connect people who need and want to be connected. My colleagues and I naturally desire to snap folks together with ideas, images and words, just as kids are fascinated by snapping Legos together to see what comes of it. We’re born communicators; and, with the world of media currently in its most pro- lific form of “wacko” with digital wizardry versus the fabled world of print, the only real common bond is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. While my days at UT taught me many things it was the straight- forward wisdom of a professor who took the time to be honest that set me on a path (albeit twisted at times) which persuades me to speak each day by the simple good use of the written word.

Becky Birdwell received her B.A. in government in 1988. She is a publicist and the principal of bbpr, which she started in 2002. Prior to this she worked in NYC in the fashion industry for designers such as Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan. Currently, Becky resides in Houston, and anxiously awaits her return to NY in the fall of 2010.

Political Science and Leadership

By Bruce Grube

“If the world was flat,” my California friends opined, “the Texas state line is just about where the world ends at the abyss.” Arriving at UT as a new doctoral student at the start of the 1967 fall semester, I had no vision whatsoever that, having entered the “abyss,” the experience would prepare me for an academic career that would include being a professor of political science at four institutions, provost at two, and president at two others. My decision to enter graduate studies in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, following an undergraduate degree in political science at the University of California at Berkeley, actually turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.

Civil Rights and the Vietnam War were in all of our minds at the time. I was clearly a beneficiary of the intense intellectual debates which took place in
a state political environment that was not prepared to entertain the perspectives that came with the scholars who had been recruited to UT. I mention
this collision of cultures because it was a significant element of the political landscape within which my graduate education took place. Observing the interaction between the University and elected officials in Texas provided many lessons about the nature of politics, particularly as politics can be defined as existing whenever there are disputes to authority.

The study of politics turned out to be a marvelous preparation for the role of provost and university president. Over the years, I have come to think that political science is a discipline that lends itself to the development of leadership. The conventional belief is that universities are communities. They are not. Universities are really collections of constituencies. And, a university president is consistently in interac- tion with several dozen constituencies, both internal and external. The study of politics prepares one for this reality.

Political science bridges many disci- plines. Importantly, political scientists generally engage in a way of thinking that illuminates the connections among many disciplines. This way of thinking is essential to working with diverse constituencies, to bridging dif- ferences, to understanding the perspectives of others. It is a way of seeing the world that permits tolerance, flexibil- ity, inclusion, and the general open- mindedness that should be expected of university leaders. It encourages the development of vision and the understanding of how to work with others to pursue a common vision.

So, as it turned out, the world was not flat after all. The road to Texas and the Department of Govern- ment at the University of Texas followed the curva- ture of the earth. Now, my wife, Kathryn, and I have returned to live in Austin. During the time since I finished my graduate work, we have lived in every re- gion of the country except for the caffeinated north- west. We have traveled in many countries, have been involved in relationships with people and other uni- versities throughout the world, have worked directly with governors, members of Congress, Senators, and many other officials to achieve the goals of higher education wherever possible. My California friends were wrong. I did not fall into the abyss. The Depart- ment of Government opened for me a world beyond what I had known — a world that can never be flat. As for California . . . well, that is another story.

Bruce Grube received his Ph.D. in government in 1976. He is president emeritus of Georgia Southern University, where he was professor of political science. He has also served as president of St. Cloud State University. He and his wife, Kathryn, moved back to Austin in January 2010.

Five Issues for the United States and Iran

By Mehdi Noorbaksh

The United States faces five issues it must resolve with Iran. These include Iran’s nuclear program, Iraq, Afghanistan, the support of the Iranian government for radical groups, and Iran’s opposition to the peace pro- cess between the Palestinians and Israelis. The United States can ignore recognizing Ahmadinejad’s government and pursue its goals without direct negotiations.

With regards to the nuclear program, it is judicious for Washington to internationalize the issue further than had the Bush administration. The International Atomic Energy Agency should be empowered by the United States and international community to directly oversee Iranian activities in pursuit of a legitimate nuclear program for peaceful purposes. U.S. negotiations with Ahmadinejad’s government risk remaining inconclusive, both in terms of his demands and also his breach of commitment after a resolution. Ahmadinejad’s government is mistrusted and perceived as illegitimate by the Iranian people. It would be very difficult and imprudent to trust an untrustworthy government in any negotiated settlement. If Ahmadinejad breaches a contract, subsequently Washington’s credibility will be questioned.

On the issues of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ahmadinejad’s options are very limited. He has no other choice but to support the current governments in these two nations. The Bush administration falsely exaggerated the influ- ence of Iran in Iraq. Iran’s interests in these nations lie in establishing stable governments in both. Ahmadinejad has neither the will nor the allies in either of these two nations for destabilizing their respective governments.

The United States cannot negotiate with Iran regarding its support for radical groups in the Middle East and elsewhere. Ahmadinejad’s government feeds on radicalism and enjoys radicals’ support. Relying on radicalism is perceived by this regime as a source of pride and legitimacy. As long as Ahmadinejad and his allies remain in power, the United States must expect to face an ideological confrontation with this regime. Ahmadinejad’s government and ideology are undem- ocratic in nature and expansionist in outreach. From this perspective it is prudent for the United States to stay behind the will of the Iranian nation for funda- mental democratic change in that country.

Keeping in mind Hezbollah’s losses in Lebanon’s recent elections, valuable lessons can be learned. When the forces of democracy are empowered, they may curtail radical influences and establish a viable demo- cratic process, the rule of law, and accountable government. Iranians will be strongly dismayed if Washington gives any encouragement to the current regime in Iran. Historically, the United States aborted the birth of the democratic process in Iran in 1953 by toppling the democratically elected government of Mohammad Musaddiq. Today, Washington must be exceptionally prudent and vigilant to support the democratic movement’s achievement of its goal, and not support an unpopular government looking to further stabilize itself.

As for Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, Washington must ignore Iran and push for a fair and just settlement between the two parties. Hamas has recently announced its agreement with a settlement that includes the border that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Washington would be wise to reject the Israeli drumbeat of confrontation with Iran, focus on solutions which end Palestinian misery, and establish a Palestinian state. Only through a fair resolution of that conflict will the radical tendencies in the Middle East be discredited and its radicals disarmed.

Mehdi Noorbaksh received his Ph.D. in government in 1996. He is associate professor of international affairs at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security

By Bat Sparrow

Hours after Iraqi armed forces invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, Brent Scowcroft, who was national security advisor at the time, decided that the United States could not let Iraq occupy Kuwait. Scowcroft came to this conclusion before President George H.W. Bush did, before Defense Secretary Cheney had made a decision, and before Secretary of State James Baker realized that it would take the use of force to evict Iraq from Kuwait. Scowcroft persuaded President Bush of what had to be done, over the objections of others in the White House, the resistance of some in the military — still recovering from Vietnam — the opposition of many in Congress, and reservations on the part of much of the public. But Scowcroft’s and the President’s views prevailed, and the rest is history.

Months after Sept. 11, 2001, as the younger President Bush, the Vice President, and the rest of his administration were gearing up for war against Iraq, as most members of Congress and almost all Republicans were calling for war, and as the media and much of the American public favored attack- ing Iraq, there was one prominent dissenting voice. In an op- ed piece in the Wall Street Journal of Aug. 15, 2002, entitled “Don’t Attack Iraq,” Scowcroft protested the administration’s plans for war. An invasion would be costly, disastrous for a number of reasons, and premature; the United States should wait for definitive proof of Saddam’s wrongdoing before taking action. The op-ed piece made Scowcroft, a respected and prominent foreign policy expert, a persona non grata in the Bush White House and estranged him from his former friends, Vice President Cheney and Condoleezza Rice among them.

Years after the invasion of Iraq, Scowcroft testified in the Senate on Feb. 1, 2007, in sup- port of the proposed “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq. Scowcroft’s support for the surge, which would supplement existing forces in Iraq by tens of thousands of additional troops, did little to repair his broken ties with President Bush (43), Cheney, or other top White House officials, while it disappointed those opposed to the war and who had welcomed Scowcroft’s earlier dissent.

These three examples reveal key things about Scowcroft. They point to his courage, his independence of mind, his pragmatism, and his patriotism — acting what he believes is in the United States’ long-term interest, no matter the cost. They further suggest Scowcroft’s continued impact on U.S. foreign policy. Whereas Scowcroft started his career as a policymaker, being Henry Kissinger’s deputy national security advisor, and national security advisor in his own right under President Gerald Ford and then under the elder George Bush, Scowcroft continues to participate in and influence the central, important debates over U.S. foreign policy and national security, notwithstanding the fact that he is no longer in public office and now 84 years of age. He writes, gives speeches, consents to media appearances, runs conferences, heads task forces and presidential commissions, and advises policymakers of both parties–including persons in the current Obama administration. In fact, that there is no one more central to the history of U.S. national security policy over the last 45 years, it is fair to say, than the modest, cordial, and mild-mannered Scowcroft. He is probably the most respected voice in U.S. national security policy — one of Washington’s few “wise men” — and he stands at the center of the United States’ foreign policy establishment. Most importantly, he is trusted — a rare commodity in Washington.

Bat Sparrow received his M.A. in government in 1984, a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and is professor of government. He just completed a year as a Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow and is writing a biogra-phy of Brent Scowcroft.

Working in the Texas Legislature

By W. Brenda Tso

It all began when I changed a $60 mistake into a lifetime opportunity. In this instance, it was a $60 ticket, not for speeding, not even for driving, but for riding the DART rail. That takes talent. Apparently, I had mistakenly bought a student ticket, thinking that “student” included college students. At the time, I was one of many college students employed by GalleryWatch, a legislative tracking service. My job was to sit in on legislative hearings and write a report on what occurred. One month later, as I was doing just that, my daydreaming somehow dredged up the memory of the ticket. I realized that, while it may be unorthodox, I was going to use the story to introduce myself to the committee chairman, a representative from Dallas, home of the notorious DART rail. It was a story that caused him to remember me, and two years later I began working for him, just in time for the 81st regular legislative session.

The representative I worked for was a longtime supporter of Tom Craddick, Speaker of the Texas House of Repre- sentatives since 2003, who, one month into the session, was ousted by the election of a new speaker, Joe Straus. As a result, I was just one of many who suddenly found themselves without a job that Thursday. I ran around Fri- day submitting resumes throughout the Capitol, and was hired the following Monday by another representative. What can I say? Events move fast during the legislative session. I landed in the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Border & Intergovernmental Affairs.

Now, as an experienced capitol employee with one regular session and one special session under my belt, I can truly say it was an experience every government junkie dreams of. It was utterly amazing to personally witness the events reported in the newspaper the next day, and I never knew what important person I would share an elevator with. The most exciting thing, however, was making a difference – working on legislation and bills that had a chance of becoming actual state law. People often fail to appreciate just how vast and complex the law is. It is virtually impossible to be an expert on every single code in Texas statutes and, sometimes, even experts in, say, the water code fail to see the unintended consequences of a certain bill. The government really is interactive – lawmakers partially rely on constituents, media, special interest groups, and non-profits to point out (either beforehand or retroactively) the issues and problems they had with legislation. In the end, the two bookcases full of codes and statutes that make up Texas law are a collaborative effort of more people than you can imagine.

Working at the Texas Capitol is definitely addicting, and once drawn in, many people fail to stay away for long. I myself will be leaving shortly to attend law school, but I have no doubt that I will be back one day at our sunset red capitol. As it is, I can only salute all of those in public service, for while the money may not be much, the results only make Texas a better place.

W. Brenda Tso received her B.A. in government in 2008. She was assistant committee clerk at the Texas House of Representatives, Committee on Border and Intergovernmental Affairs, and this year begins law school at South- ern Methodist University. She received a Taborsky Scholarship and Governor’s Fellowship in 2006.

Learning to Govern, Learning to Live

By Coby Chase

From time to time, investors like to know if they’re getting a good return on their money. Midway through my college career my father naturally called to check on his investment.

“So what are you going to do with a government degree? Teach?” my father asked me.

“No. I’m going to govern. It’s clearly stated in the name. I need $100.”

He got his answer, and to put the topic to rest for good, I slapped on the student tax. This degree was already paying off.

I knew then that UT-Austin was an outstanding place to practice governing. It still is. The campus has been an integral part of the state’s political history since the day the University opened its doors in 1883. And besides, the state capitol is just down the street. There’s no excuse whatsoever to leave school without any practical experience.

The Department of Government also has a stellar faculty that builds on itself each year. Every time I turn on any sort of media these days I find myself, along with the rest of the nation, absorbing the top-rate analysis of Bruce Buchanan, Jim Henson, or Daron Shaw. If you don’t know who these guys are the honorable thing to do is to return your degree. Really.

In the first half of the 1980s, student government was reborn, and local, state, and national candidates had operations on campus. Still, since leaving the University in 1986 and being unleashed on our broader democracy, I’ve enjoyed some terrific experiences that I couldn’t have imagined as an undergraduate. I’ve worked on a project for a governor, collaborated with some of Texas’ and the nation’s intellectual leaders on major initiatives, and built relationships with members of Congress and the Texas Legislature. And these days, I’ve expanded my government career portfolio to include large-scale public affairs, international relations, strategic planning, and media relations.

That’s what college is supposed to do: prepare you for the bigger, bolder challenges. But you still need to bridge the gap between college and a satisfying career.

For me, there were three basic elements that made it all work properly. To start with, I was lucky to have a family who never lost faith that I was capable of success, even if it came about on my own terms. Second, UT is a bottomless diamond mine of people who change the world, and I accessed every one of them I could. This included administrators, professors, fellow students, and alumni. Those relationships still push me places today. And last, every day I pursued what I enjoyed. Unrealized passion is a person’s worst enemy.

If I’ve left you with the impression that I planned my life to happen exactly the way it has, then let me disabuse you of that right now. No one is that good. Just be sure to keep your mind and your eyes open to new opportunities, especially ones that take you off the path you think you were on. Those are often the best adventures, and the University of Texas Department of Government prepares you to think your way through it.

Coby Chase received his B.A. in government in 1986, graduating as a Dean’s Distinguished Graduate. He is director of government and public affairs at the Texas Department of Transportation.

On The Campaign Trail

By Brittany Ross

I was always raised that the one thing you never discuss over dinner is politics. As someone who has managed to make a career out of political campaigns, I always cringe when that inevitable question “what do you do?” comes up – I either have to lie or break that cardinal dinner conversation rule.

Without a doubt, the next question asked of me is, “how did you get into that, and why?” In my case, as part of my degree in Government, I interned on a campaign in Austin and then participated in UT’s Bill Archer Fellowship Program, where I worked for EMILY ’s List, a D.C.-based political organization. After that I embarked on a seemingly endless road trip across the United States working to elect which- ever candidate I thought best suited for the office for which they were running.

Even more diverse than where I’ve worked are the people I’ve worked with on each campaign. From the candidate, to other staff and volunteers, each has a unique background and political perspective. They also have their own reasons for dedicating their time to each election. Dedication is the most important part of the job description and more often than not we work night and day, seven days a week. In a campaign you never have enough time and you’re always
working against the clock.

I understand the perception of insider politics is often glamorized. The real work, however, isn’t done in smoke- filled rooms rubbing elbows with the political elite. Campaigns are hard work, but you wake up every day knowing you can make a difference by working tirelessly for something in which you believe.

While the long hours can be exhausting, the work you do is incredibly rewarding. Some of my favorite moments have been attending Tribal Council meetings on Native American Reservations in an effort to understand the day-to-day issues; waking up at 3 a.m. on any given elec- tion day and putting up signs around polling sites to ensure the candidate has the best visibility; being involved in the production of the political advertisements, whether it be speaking, appearing, or editing; attempting to intimidate an incumbent U.S. Senator while dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ; leading conference calls with then Senator and now President Barack Obama, and becoming friends with members of his family; and the countless fundraisers, local parades, barbecues, and political party meetings. Of course, there isn’t a day that I don’t also have to take out the trash, literally.

Political campaigns don’t come with as defined job descriptions as you may find elsewhere. As a result you get to try almost all aspects of a campaign: press and media relations, voter contact and volunteer recruit- ment, scheduling the candidate and staff appearances, organizing events, and my particular niche of fundrais- ing. Once your area of campaigning is realized and your skills honed it is easy and fast to rise up the ranks and join the army of campaign professionals who crisscross the country every year to work on the next big race.

My first paid campaign position was as a volunteer coordinator for a gubernatorial campaign in Virginia. I spent my days making phone calls to anyone who would take the time to listen to my pitch, oftentimes ending up in hearing only a loud slam of the phone. It’s never easy going at first, but if it’s a career you’re interested in, just stick with it. Although it’s only been a few short years, I now work with top tier candidates as a consultant and oftentimes have to turn down work.

I can’t say political campaigning is a career meant for everyone. In fact, I’d say it is the career for the few. The long tedious days of crunching voter and donor numbers far outnumber those spent rubbing elbows with the political elite. But in the end, on the day after the election, after you have caught up on some much needed sleep, you realize it was worth it because you know you fought your heart out for something in which you so strongly believe.

Brittany Ross received her B.A. in government, and B.S. in communications, in 2004. She was an Archer Center fellow in 2003, and has worked in electoral politics for more than five years for a variety of candidates, including U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, and President Barack Obama. She currently holds the position of finance director working to elect the first female governor of Tennessee.

What must Republicans learn from the Obama Campaign?

By Max Everett

As often happens in political parties after an election defeat, Republicans are in the midst of soul searching and rebuilding. While the traditional activities such as finding a new voice for the party, annunciating winning ideas, and recruiting new candidates are occurring, another discussion is also underway. Political professionals at every level are attempting to distil the lessons of the Obama campaign and its incredibly effective efforts on the internet.

The constant television ads that voters in swing states are subjected to every fourth November will continue to lose ground; a survey released this year
showed that Americans are now spending as much time online as they do watching TV each week. Political operatives for both parties are beginning to understand that how campaigns and candidates talk to the electorate is changing more quickly than any time since the advent of television, and in ways that are fundamentally different from traditional mass media.

Social networks have become the great buzzword in fields from politics to social science to marketing, and with good reason. Never before has there been a place where people gathered together based on such a virtually endless catalog of common interests. From political interests to ownership of a particular breed of dog to love of a particular product, there is probably a social network somewhere online devoted to it. The ability to communicate in a targeted manner to a group sharing common interests is rapidly becoming the new retail politics.

The ‘magic’ driving political opportunity on all these new channels to communicate online is data. Politics has long been driven by data, from national opinion polls to counting the votes at a straw poll; but the volume and depth of the data available on the Internet is qualitatively different. Instead of general messages, based on broad models of voters, granular information from social networks, cookies, and geo-targeting now allow messages to be tailored and focused to an audience of one in some cases. Traditional voter files can now be appended to commercial advertising data and social network data, so campaigns can channel get-out-the-vote efforts to particular voters, on specific streets in specific precincts, who voted in previous elections, and appear to fit their profile of likely voters.

But perhaps the biggest change brought on by these advances in technology is a change in expectations. Users of social networks online expect, in fact demand, interactivity. We see this in the massive growth of new social networks that offer people ways to not only connect, but also control their experience online. Those who will succeed in using this medium understand that it is a two-way street. Simply blasting a message out will not bring results. In fact, that type of behavior online may have a very negative effect.

The core lesson of the Obama campaign may be the desire for voters to feel involved in the campaign and no longer simply be spectators. Participants in social net- works expect to see results of their involvement, and that helps drive perhaps the greatest value of social networks for candidates. The Obama campaign’s effort resulted in online supporters creating thousands of hours of video on YouTube and contacting millions of their friends and neighbors. It also helped them create an unprecedented fundraising engine – people are more likely to donate to something in which they feel a sense of ownership. It remains to be seen whether Republicans can learn and apply the lessons from the Obama efforts and apply them broadly to campaigns of all sizes.

Max Everett received his B.A. in government in 1994. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Houston, worked on both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, has served at several federal agencies, and was previously chief information officer for the White House and the 2008 Republican National Convention. He is currently chief technology officer at NetPower Strategy.