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Talking Politics

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Commentary: Realignment Potential

Sep 17, 2020

In a July commentary I gave three of the nine reasons why America has a strong and durable two-party system, and why it is difficult for third parties to gain traction.  Sometimes they behave like supernova, blowing up an election, then going away almost without a trace.  But usually, to continue the astronomy analogy, they are just background radiation.


Commentary: Conversation with Insiders, Part 2

Sep 1, 2020

Last time my two political insiders and I looked at local and state races.  Now we’ll look at the national scene. 

We agree that there are more uncertainties and variables than ever before.  I would add that there is also less conventional wisdom to use as a crutch.  I’ll mention only two examples: The 240-Electoral Vote Lock that Democrats are supposed to have – and did until 2016 – just thirty short of the necessary  majority -- is one new uncertainty. 

Commentary: Conversation with Insiders, Part 1

Aug 18, 2020

Recently I got together with my two political insiders – one a progressive Democrat, the other a conservative Republican, both highly respected, well-connected and deeply informed – to survey the lay of the political land right before Labor Day.  I’ll try to condense an hour and a half of conversation and analysis.

Commentary: Two Party System (Part 2)

Jul 23, 2020

Last time I suggested our two-party system is deeply embedded in our political DNA.  In my American political parties class we examine the nine reasons for the persistence of the two-party system, but they can be summarized by three:

·      Most people feel an affinity, strong or mild, for either the Republicans or the Democrats, and the attachment is usually inherited.

Commentary: Two Party System (Part 1)

Jul 7, 2020

One of my favorite lectures to my students at Columbia College is about the stability and durability of the two-party system in America.  I draw a diagram across three whiteboards that dramatically demonstrates this.  It is two very long, almost uninterrupted parallel lines that begin in 1789 with the ratification of the Constitution and end with the present day.


Commentary: Handicapping the November Election

Jun 22, 2020

“Little doubt an election held today would be a Biden landslide/GOP wipeout,” an editor for the respected nonpartisan Cook Political Report said on June 8.

But by law national elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, despite Jared Kushner’s off-hand comment that the pandemic might change election day.  And there are at least seven reasons why no sane analyst would stake their reputation on predicting even a Trump/Republican defeat, not to mention a “wipeout.”  Here they are in no particular order.


Commentary: The Long Game

Jun 9, 2020

It is said that the Balkans in southeast Europe “produce more history then they can consume.”  I feel that right now the United States is producing more history than it can consume: A pandemic that has killed more Americans than the total population of Columbia, a bitterly divided country led by a president who is not interested in national unity, and now the worst civil unrest in many decades. 

Commentary: The Politics of Ort Gaukel

May 29, 2020

When I was in graduate school at Michigan State I got a job with grounds maintenance because the graduate assistantship wasn’t paying the bills.  In the morning I was a garbage man, riding around on the back of the truck and humping trash and incinerator ashes into the “packer,” as it was called – the technology hasn’t changed.  It was dangerous but interesting work.  You can’t believe what people throw away.  I salvaged a perfectly good night stand, a kid’s tricycle and a baby bed that was missing only one small piece of hardware that cost a quarter.  We supplemented our wages with deposit

Commentary: Rural America

May 14, 2020

Until I was eight years old I lived on the edge of a small town in eastern Illinois.  Every morning I looked out on big sky and corn or corn stubble.  I also lived as an adult in Kirksville for 18 years.  Kirksville is not as small as Oblong, Illinois but it is definitely rural.  All told I’ve lived half my life in rural America.

My early days in the country were especially formative.  I recall them being simple, quiet, safe and boring.  We did not farm, possibly the first generation of my line of Smiths not to.  Life was family-oriented: both sets of grandparents and an aunt and uncle lived on my one-mile walk between grade school and home.  One day was pretty much like the next.\


Commentary: Unlikelies

May 1, 2020

During the Easter egg hunt my two-year-old grandson announced that he had found a rooster egg.  This got me thinking: What are some fascinating but unlikely occurrences in the political world?  With the help of family and friends, here are some possibilities, and feel free to add to the list:


Commentary: Climate Change

Apr 16, 2020

I tell my students at Columbia College that when they are finished with this class and they don’t know if I’m a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal, then it’s been a successful class in at least one way.  I tell them it is none of their business what my political beliefs are.  


Political Commentary: Virus

Apr 2, 2020

I have not read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel Love in the Time of Cholera and it appears the plot doesn’t have much to do with disease, but it certainly has a memorable title and one that is going through my head now, especially “love,” which I’m feeling in abundance toward my family even though, or maybe especially because, we are all isolated from each other in strange and, for us, extremely rare and unfamiliar ways.

Commentary: Trump Explained

Mar 3, 2020

I’m old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California.  The received wisdom at the time was: How did this second-rate, washed-up actor get elected governor of the biggest state in the country?  Fourteen years later a version of this same narrative wondered how he got elected president, except the pejorative “old” was added.


Commentary: History Rhymes

Jan 22, 2020

The president, a New Yorker, wins a very close and bitterly contested election and flips the party holding the White House.  His first term is controversial, with many contentious domestic and foreign issues.  The country is polarized, with major urban-rural divides, great income inequalities, and much anxiety in the working class.  Immigration is a huge issue.


Commentary: Disco Through the 2020 Election Cycle

Jan 10, 2020

Columbia College Political Science Professor Terry Smith is a regular commentator on KBIA's Talking Politics. Every few years, he looks for some musical inspiration to tell the story of our political moment. This year, it's disco.

United States House of Representatives Communications

The Missouri Department of Transportation’s chronic lack of funding isn’t very surprising anymore. Just last November, Missouri voters rejected Proposition D, which would have increased the state’s gas tax by 10 cents and used the funds to boost spending on roads and bridges.

Without the additional funding, MoDOT counts on federal grant money to address infrastructure problems like the one posed by Missouri’s aging bridges.

In his Aug. 29 newsletter, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., announced that MoDOT will receive a $20.7 million federal grant for the state’s bridge replacement program. To highlight the significance of the challenges, Graves said, “The average bridge in Missouri is 48 years old—most were only designed to last for 50 years.”

The problem sounds severe and a little dangerous, so we decided to see if the numbers hold up. To a degree, they do — Graves took the sentence from the MoDOT website.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic every time you drive over a bridge.

Commentary: The Impeachment Inquiry Continues

Nov 19, 2019

  

With the impeachment inquiry in full swing, I thought I’d do another daily log.

Commentary: A Critical Look at Media Bias

Oct 29, 2019

Here’s a quick poll: Are the media in the United States biased? If your answer is “It depends,” congratulations. You have a promising future as a political scientist.

Sidney Steele / KBIA News

 

 Last month, Columbia saw the deadliest month from gun violence since 2001. There were more deaths in September 2019 than the entire previous year.

As gun violence rises, addressing mental health continues to be discussed in tandem with gun control. On Friday, the mayors of St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield met with Governor Mike Parson to address the problem of violent crime in their communities.

This week on Talking Politics, Sidney Steele sits down with MU Professor of Communications Dr. Cassandra Kearney to discuss her research on the construction of rhetoric surrounding mass shootings and how legislators have been discussing increasing gun violence in Missouri.

 

It’s a brisk Sunday morning, and nearly 100 people are singing hymns at the steps of St. Louis City Hall. The congregation waves rainbow and transgender pride flags and hoists picket signs that demand civil rights for LGBTQ workers.

Among the protesters is Beth Gombos, who says they’re "terrified" by the possible outcomes of three ongoing U.S Supreme Court cases.

The court could rule next year that federal civil rights law doesn’t prevent employers from firing people for being gay, bisexual or transgender. If the court decides against the employees in the cases, Missouri’s estimated 180,000 LGBTQ adults would be left with little recourse against discrimination in the workplace. 

Missouri’s low-income housing tax credit is a complicated program that often gets debated in terms of dollars and cents, but for Mary Harris, the incentive that creates housing for the poor, elderly and disabled isn’t some philosophical concept.

Harris lives in a townhouse in Pine Lawn. Thanks to a tax credit to developers, she pays significantly less money in rent than for other places she’s lived throughout the St. Louis area. It’s an arrangement that’s had a profound impact on her life.

  

One thing is certain about the Trump impeachment inquiry: Anything you say about it today is likely to be obsolete tomorrow. This fluidity certainly impacts any attempt to do a commentary about it, so I am trying a different approach. Monday October 7, I’m recording a log of impressions and reactions from the past couple of weeks.

 

In a scathing letter to Facebook this week, Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, along with three of his Republican colleagues, renewed his criticism of the social media giant, saying the company censors conservative voices.

It’s Hawley’s latest call for more government scrutiny and regulation of tech companies stemming from concerns like data privacy, internet addiction and censorship. 

Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

The local group Race Matters, Friends is calling for the resignation of Columbia Public Schools’ chief equity officer Carla London.

The group officially made the call last week in a letter saying, “The district has been unable to provide RMF with evidence that Ms. London’s equity training program is meaningfully addressing the racial disparities in out-of-school suspensions, harassment, bullying and attendance.”

From time to time I visit with two well-connected, well-informed, and well-respected local politicos, one a Democrat and the other a Republican.  We caught up even though it is way more than a year until the next national election, and a year in politics time is longer than the amount of time it takes light to reach Earth from the most distant observable galaxy.  Still, it’s good to check vital signs occasionally.


Commentary: The Angry Voter

Aug 7, 2019

When I attended the Midwest Political Science Association meeting in April I sat in on a number of good panels and brought back much good content for my classes at Columbia College and for these commentaries.  In a panel on the 2020 election one author made the case that the traditional metrics used to predict presidential elections may not apply in 2020, just as many of them failed in 2016.


In 1932 and 1933 Joseph Stalin deliberately starved between three and ten million residents of Ukraine – no one knows the number for sure – and he tried to keep it secret.  When a later official Soviet census showed a multi-million person decline in Ukraine’s population, Stalin did the only thing he could do.  He had the top officials of the census executed.

So the pollsters recently fired by President Trump because internal polling showed Trump was behind in several battleground states should consider themselves lucky.  But Trump has a point.  People: IT IS A YEAR AND A HALF UNTIL THE ELECTION.  


Commentary: History's View of D-Day

Jun 23, 2019

Seventy-five years ago this week my late father, Lt. H. Bruce Smith, went ashore on Omaha Beach.  He was an Army combat engineer and a demolitions expert – a sapper.  The unit he had trained with went ashore on D-Day in the first wave and suffered 80 percent casualties, but because of a training accident my father was hospitalized for three weeks and then attached to a different unit that didn’t arrive in Normandy until late June.

On today’s episode of Talking Politics, Terry Smith, a political science professor at Columbia College, joins us to discuss the shift in the way candidates participate in presidential primaries. You can read his full commentary below. Also on today’s episdoe, KBIA’s Will Robinson gives us a look at Cowboys at the Capitol, a day when members of the Missouri Cattleman’s Association walk the Capitol halls to advocate for agriculture-related issues.

Terry Smith's Commentary:

Seth Bodine / KBIA

In Marthasville, Missouri, the fire department is made up entirely of volunteers. Between its three stations, the department is responsible for covering 168 square miles including surrounding towns like Treloar and Hopewell.

Volunteer fire departments are common in rural communities. In fact, The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 65 percent of the nation’s fire departments are made up of volunteers.

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