Shrinking Swing Seats

AP US Government and Politics

Out of 435 House seats how many are swing seats*?

*A swing seat is a district held with a small majority that is generally competitive in a legislative election. Because the number of Democrats and Republicans in a swing district are so close, a swing seat might be won by a Republican one election, and then a Democrat the next. This is also known as a competitive seat. The opposite is a safe seat, an district that is drawn so that it is predictably won by one party or the other, so the success of that party's candidate is almost taken for granted.

Cook Political Report

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this chart tell?

  3. Explain one reason the number of swing seats is shrinking.

  4. What is one consequence of the shrinking number of swing seats?

  5. What is good about swing seats?

  6. Is the shrinking number of swing seats good news or bad?

  7. How surprising was this information?

  8. What would be one way for there to be more swing seats in the US?

  9. Who draws the district lines in US house races?

  10. Does this chart make majority leadership in the House likely to change parties any time soon?

  11. How does the lack of swing seats affect how campaign and elections are run?

  12. If you were to extrapolate these trends into the future what would the chart look like by the year 2020?

  13. If you were a representative in a safe seat, explain what incentive you would have to listen to the will of the people or compromise on your views.

  14. Explain whether the Senate has swing seats.

  15. How would having more competitive elections, instead of elections where we already know who will win in almost all elections, impact the kind of policies we get?

  16. What questions do you have about this?

  17. How does this information impact American democracy?


Learning Extension

I have not lived in a swing seat during my adulthood. Instead, the two districts I have lived in have been safe for one party for the past two decades. Check out the Cook Political Report chart of very few competitive races from 2016 or take a gander at this interactive map of competitive seats from 270 to Win.


Action Extension

Find out if your district is a swing seat. Share your answer in class or online. Contact your US House representative and explain to them why they do or don't need to listen to the will of the people or compromise in any way.


Bonus Map

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 9.07.05 PM.png

Senate So White

White Americans are better represented in the U.S. Senate than any other racial group. What group has the least representation?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does the chart tell?

  3. Explain why this racial disparity in representation exists?

  4. What is one consequence of this disparity?

  5. In a democracy, all people are supposed to be equal. Does this chart show that all people in America are equal?

  6. Describe a connection between the data from this chart and the Connecticut Compromise.

  7. What could remedy the inequality described in the chart?

  8. Should we remedy this inequality?

  9. The author of the editorial the above chart comes from proposes that D.C. and Puerto Rico become states. How would that impact the data from the chart?

  10. Descibe one policy change that would likely happen if all racial groups in America were represented equally?

  11. One students responded to this chart by making the claim that it doesn’t matter what race of politician represents a state or district as long as they do what is best for the country. Respond to this claim.

  12. What story does the chart below tell?

Learning Extension

Read David Leonhardt’s NYTimes editorial, The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People to learn a bit more about how racial disparities in politics works.

Action Extension

Read the comments on David Leonhardt’s NYTimes editorial, The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People then leave your own comment.

Political Animal Extension

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 9.10.14 PM.png

Democracy Around the World

AP Government and Politics

In a Pew survey of 38 countries* (see list below), of the following ways of governing a country, which is the most popular: Representative Democracy, Direct Democracy, Rule by Experts, Rule by a Strong Leader, Rule by the Military?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is most surprising in this data?

  3. What is the big story this chart tells?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is one political consequence of this data?

  6. Is this good news?

  7. If we had the data from 1937 (80 years ago, and on the eve of WWII) how do you imagine that data would compare to today's?

  8. How different do you think this data is going to be in 10 years?

  9. What percent of statistics are made up on the spot?

  10. Which of those five types of government would you say is more like the current government of the United States?

  11. Imagine the earth was under attack by Martians (I know they don't exist, bear with me). Explain whether you think that would make earth-people more or less democratic.

  12. American Democrats and Republicans don't always see eye to eye. However, if the typical American Democrat and the typical American Republican took this survey, how much do you believe their answers would differ?

  13. Explain the circumstance in which you believe that democracy is not the best form of government:

  14. Since the rule of POTUS Trump, would you say the US has become more or less democratic (with a small d)?

  15. This data is taken from citizens from different countries, of which some are democratic (Japan), somewhat democratic (Turkey) and non-democratic (Russia). How would the data differ if you only surveyed citizens of democratic countries?**

  16. How would the data differ if you only surveyed citizens of non-democratic countries?**

  17. How would the data differ if you only surveyed American citizens?

  18. How do you think education level impacts the survey data?**

  19. How do you imagine political ideology (left v right) impacts the survey data?**

  20. Explain whether you think that most people living in a non-democratic country are yearning to be free (in other words, do they secretly want to live in a democratic country)?

  21. Are you having a nice day?

  22. If you were in charge, would you allow every single person in the world who wanted to live in a democratic country to move to America?

  23. Imagine a democratic country elected non-experts (I know, it's hard to imagine!!!!) who ran their government very poorly, and then let's imagine a second country that was undemocratic, but ruled by experts who ran a very efficient and good government. Explain which of the two countries you would prefer to live in:

  24. Rank the 38 countries* from the chart below from most to least democratic. Which three would be at the top of the list (most democratic), which three would be at the bottom of the list, and where exactly would the U.S. under our current POTUS rank?

  25. You know, you should thank your teacher for giving you this cool class starter right now. They could be giving you a quiz or a test or a 5 paragraph essay or something like that but instead they are giving you this awesome information. So hey, why don't ya show them some love!

Learning Extension

Read the entire Pew report on the state of democracy.

Action Extension

Think about one thing you could do to make your country more democratic and one thing you could do to make your country less democratic. Share your answer in class or online. And don't forget to thank your teacher!

The 38 Countries*

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.53.48 PM.png

Bonus Charts!!!!**

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.44.49 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.45.38 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.45.54 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.46.09 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.46.22 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.46.52 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.47.06 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.51.20 PM.png

Changes in Democracy

US Government and Politics

How has the percent of the world living in a democracy changed over the past 200 years?

Max Roser - Our World In Data

US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprises you about this chart?

  3. What is the big story this chart tells about democracy in the world?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is the most important consequence of this?

  6. Overall, is this good news or bad news?

  7. What the heck is a closed anocracy, and is that the direction the U.S. is headed in under Trump?

  8. What question do you have about this chart?

  9. With the Trump victory and the rise of authoritarian political party power in Europe what do you think the future of democracy looks like over the next 4 or 5 years?

  10. Based on the overall trends of this chart, what would you say to people who are all in a tizzy with worry about the rise of Trump and authoritarian governments around the world?

  11. If the % of people living in democracies has increased, what types of government have most decreased?

  12. If you had to extrapolate and predict where we would be in the next 200 years what prediction would you make?


Learning Extension

Check out this list of the world's closed anocracies


Action Extension

Keep the U.S. a democracy! Go online and Register to vote. If you are not old enough to vote, or already are registered, share this link with your friends on social media.

Bonus Chart

Rockin' In The Free World?

¿How free is the world?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about the map and tables?

  3. What is the big story that this map tells?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. How do you think Freedom House defines and measures “Freedom”?

  6. What geographical patterns or trends do you find in the map?

  7. What is the most free region of the world?

  8. What is the least free region of the world?

  9. What do you think is the main explanation for why some parts of the world are free and others aren't?

  10. Explain whether this is all generally good news or bad news?

  11. In the comments section share whether you think the U.S. should take a role in making the world more free:


Learning Extension

Read the entire Freedom House Report: Freedom In The World 2016


Action Extension

Contact President Obama and explain the role you believe the U.S. should take in making the world more free.

Bonus Map Just For Fun

Represent!

AP US Government and Politics

Who represents more people, a US Senator from Wyoming or a Los Angeles County Supervisor?

  1. Happy Friday! How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Did you know that today is friday?!?!?!?! What most surprised you about this data?

  3. What is the BIG PICTURE this data paints?

  4. What emoji would best sum up the meaning of this data?

  5. Explain the connection between this data and federalism. (PRo tip: federalism is that thing you studied at the beginning of the year.)

  6. While Los Angeles County Supervisors represent more people than a Wyoming Senator, (or, in fact than Senators from Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, and Vermont), explain whether political power is based solely on the number of people a politician represents?

  7. What are some powers that county commissioners (supervisors) have in your county?

  8. What are some powers U.S. Senators have that L.A. County Supervisors (or most supervisors, in general) don't?

  9. Explain whether you would rather be a U.S. Senator from Wyoming or an L.A. County Supervisor:

  10. Are there any politicians in your state who represent more people than an L.A. County Supervisor?

  11. What questions do you have about this data?

  12. If you could hold any position at any level of government in America, explain what position you would want:

  13. Explain whether you think a politician representing a small number of people would be more likely to be a trustee than someone representing more people.

  14. Explain what you believe politicians should do for the people that voted against them: (Do they represent them too? Should they follow their will?)

  15. The United States gives all people equal representation through the House of Representatives (each district is roughly equal), and all states equal representation through the Senate (two Senators per state). Since democracy means government by the people, where all people are equal, is it democratic to give each state equal representation if that means that smaller states (and all the people in them) have more representation than larger states?

  16. Anti-Federalists were concerned that it would be hard for the people in a large country to control a national government. They argued for government to be kept close to the people. In Brutus 1, the Anti-Federalist Robert Yates writes, “History furnishes no example of a free republic, any thing like the extent of the United States. The Grecian republics were of small extent; so also was that of the Romans. Both of these, it is true, in process of time, extended their conquests over large territories of country; and the consequence was, that their governments were changed from that of free governments to those of the most tyrannical that ever existed in the world.” Based on what you know about American politics and history explain whether the anti-federalist were right that large territories (countries) are the most tyrannical that ever existed?

  17. Did I mention that it’s friday? Explain whether you believe a representative government can function successfully in a country the size (>318,000,000 people) of the United States:

Visual Extension

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 4.49.17 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 10.18.32 PM.png
4fe613c0a0d976035d7580818578af87.jpg

Learning Extension

Check out these Map comparisons to show you how ginormous L.A. Country really is.

Because California gives a considerable amount of power to counties, that makes supervisors very, very powerful. Indeed, Hilda Solis, another member of the LA County Board of Supervisors, stepped down as US secretary of labor to run for it. You read that right. Solis — a former Congress member to boot — resigned a Cabinet position because she wanted to take a job in county government. And it makes sense — she represents more people than a senator from a small state.

Also, just for fun, learn more about Brutus 1 in this video.

Action Extension

I've heard a lot of people complaining about the politicians who represent us. Calculate the first year you could run for president (35 age minimum), Senate (30), US House (25), and local offices (?), and go to Candidate College to plan your run for office!

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothes Extension

Ape.jpg

Democracy Minus

What percent of Americans say that democracy is working very well in the U.S. today?

  1. How accurate was your splendid prediction?

  2. What story does this data tell about how Americans feel about democracy?

  3. Why do you think Americans feel that way about democracy?

  4. What is a consequence of this?

  5. How different are Democratic and Republican views of American democracy?

  6. Why do you think that is?

  7. I am wondering if the political party of the president has an impact on how partisans feel about democracy at that time. How different do you think Democratic and Republican views on American democracy were during the Obama presidency?

  8. Explain how well you think democracy is working in the U.S.

  9. Describe one aspect of American politics which leads you to that conclusion.

  10. What percent of Americans think that significant changes are needed in the fundamental design and structure of American government?

  11. The Declaration of Independence asserts that “men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Does the fact that 61% of Americans believe the government needs fundamental and structural changes mean that the government has lost the consent of the governed and, if so, does that give us the right to alter or abolish our government?

  12. The Declaration of Independence listed the specific gripes the colonists had against the stupid British King. More than two thirds of Democrats think significant changes need to be made in the fundamental design and structure of American government. Describe some specific gripes and changes you think the typical Democrat would advocate today.

  13. Thinking about the fundamental design and structure of American government explain whether you believe that the significant changes are needed?

  14. If so, list three changes to the fundamental design and structure of American government that you would support.

  15. Do you believe that significant changes to the fundamental design and structure of American government are likely to occur?

  16. Describe the method by which Americans could undertake significant changes to the fundamental design and structure of American government.

  17. Was the Constitutional Convention that the Framers convened in Philadelphia in 1787 legal under the Articles of Confederation?

Learning Extension

Read the Pew Report Democracy and government, the U.S. political system, elected officials and governmental institutions

Action Extension

Even if you think that Democracy is working in general, you still must have at least one gripe with American democracy. Write a 28th Amendment describing a way to fix one problem with American democracy.

Our World in Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothes Extension

Keeping The Faith-less Electors

When the electoral college met on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December (December 19, 2018) most of the electors voted for the presidential candidate they were pledged to (Clinton or Trump), but some electors had different plans. How many electors did NOT vote for the candidate they were supposed to vote for?

Gage [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Gage [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. If you were an elector, and your state’s electoral votes were supposed to go to someone you did not like, would you follow your state’s will or would you cast your electoral vote for the person you preferred?

  3. Should the U.S. allow faithless electors (electors who go against the will of their state)?

  4. Let’s say that you believed that electors should be forced by law to vote the way their state voted, what steps could you take to do something about that?

  5. Explain the connection between the electoral college and federalism?

  6. How many states have laws that force their electors to vote for the candidate who actually won the majority of their state’s popular votes?* (see visual below)

  7. Does your state allow faithless electors?* (see visual below)

  8. Explain whether faithless electors are acting democratically.

  9. According to the Article II of the U.S. Constitution, what would have happened if Faith Spotted Eagle got 270 electoral votes - all from faithless electors - would she have become the president?

  10. What if Faith Spotted Eagle didn’t meet the Constitutional requirement of being 35 years old (she actually did - this is just a hypothetical). Would she still become president?

  11. In a case like that, who would decide about the presidential eligibility of Faith Spotted Eagle?

  12. When it lays out presidential requirements, does Article II of the U.S. Constitution say anything about species or can only humans be president?

  13. Faith Spotted Eagle was the first Native American to ever receive an electoral vote. How about that!

  14. If there had been an electoral college tie of 269 electoral votes each for Clinton and Trump, who would have broken the tie?

  15. Claim: the electoral college is proof that the framers of the Constitution wanted an elite democracy with a strong check on the will of the people. Based on your knowledge of the U.S. political system, respond to this claim.

  16. What is one question you have about this topic?

  17. Draw a picture of the electoral college. You don’t need to draw a masterpiece, just use stick figures or symbols or whatever it takes to symbolize the electoral college. And you can draw the electoral college in just 10 seconds or less. Look at your drawing.


Gratitude Extension

Today’s class starter courtesy of Mr. Jason Hyjek - a great teacher in Brooklyn, New York. Thanks, Jason!

Visual Extension

By Fzxboy - Data for the figure used state population & electoral information available on wikipedia. Figure was made using the IDL programming language., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22432418

By Fzxboy - Data for the figure used state population & electoral information available on wikipedia. Figure was made using the IDL programming language., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22432418

Learning Extension

Check out this absolutely ugly, old-fashioned, but full-of-great-facts website from the national archives about the electoral college.

Action Extension

In most States, the political parties nominate slates of electors at State conventions or central committee meetings. Contact your state Republican or Democratic party and apply to be an elector in your state. Share your results in class or online.

Our World In Data Extension


Cute Animal Extension

That‘s one cute quokka!!!!!!!!!

That‘s one cute quokka!!!!!!!!!

To the big spender go the big spoils

How often did the higher spending candidate win in the 2018 election?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Describe one trend from the data?

  3. What do you think explains that trend?

  4. What is one consequence of this trend?

  5. Make a claim about whether this is good or bad news.

  6. One might argue or claim that the person with the most money should win the election, because people with better ideas raise more money. And if a candidate can’t raise much money they must not have very good or viable ideas. How would you respond to this claim?

  7. Why do you think money matters more in the House than the Senate?

  8. It was rare, but occasionally the bigger spender lost an election. How do you explain these rare and infrequent upsets?

  9. What is most of the money in elections actually spent on?

  10. Claim: almost 90% of the time, the higher spending candidate wins. This is exactly as the Framers would have wanted because they never once used the word “democracy” in the Constitution and support political equality. Respond to the claim, using your knowledge of the American political system.

  11. Describe how the typical conservative and liberal would explain the trend from the data.

  12. Do you think there are any other factors more likely to predict victory than the amount of money a candidate spent?

  13. WHICH RAceS in the 2018 elections DO YOU THINK SPENT THE MOST MONEY?*

  14. IMAGINE THAT A POLITICIAN TOOK A MORAL STAND AND SAID THEY WOULD NOT SPEND ANY MONEY ON AN ELECTION. EXPLAIN HOW YOU THINK THEY WOULD DO IN THat ELECTION.

Visual Extension*

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 1.11.25 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 1.10.40 PM.png

Learning Extension

Read the entire report and check out all the cool charts from Open Secrets and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Action Extension

FOLLOW OPEN SECRETS ON TWITTER! IF YOU TWEET, RESPOND TO ONE OF THEIR TWEETS. SHARE THE RESULTS OF YOUR TWEETING IN CLASS OR ONLINE.

THERAPY PET EXTRAVAGANZA

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 2.10.09 PM.png

Voter Suppression

How many states have added significant voting restrictions since 2010?

Don’t miss the bonus - separated at birth - extension below!*

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprising is this map?

  3. What is the big story this map tells?

  4. Last year, 99 bills designed to diminish voter access were introduced in 31 state legislatures. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is a consequence of these changes?

  6. In the 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder, the Supreme Court eviscerated minority voting protections from the VOting Rights Act of 1965. Within hours, Texas announced a strict new voter-I.D. law. MISSISSIPPI AD ALABAMA SHORTLY BEGAN ENFORCING SIMILAR LAWS THAT HAD BEEN BARRED BY THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT. How does this incident related to checks and balances?

  7. What geographical patterns do you see in this map?

  8. Why is that?

  9. What will be one consequence of this voter suppression in the 2018 election?

  10. Is voter suppression a smart long-term strategy for a political party?

  11. Did your state add voting restrictions since 2010?

  12. Although there have been almost zero examples of voter fraud over the past decade, these restrictions are passed in the name of stopping voter fraud. What do you think these laws are really trying to stop?

  13. What groups of citizens are these voting restrictions mostly geared towards?

  14. Voting is one of the most fundamental rights of citizens. This right has been significantly restricted since 2010. Make a claim about whether voting restrictions are democratic?

  15. Why would any political party try to limit voting?

  16. Do you think there would be voter restrictions if they were intended to stop Whites from exercising their fundamental democratic right?

  17. Do you think that most people in the states in the map above that have made it harder to vote are aware that their states are limiting people's voting rights?

  18. What do you think veterans of the civil rights movement: people who sacrificed for people's right to vote, think of these new restrictions?

  19. Explain the connection between the map at the top of the page and The Changing Face of America chart (directly below).

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.58.36 PM.png

Learning Extension

Play the Voter Suppression Trail video game and check out this interactive map of American voter suppression!

Action Extension

Is there anything you could do to help all Americans exercise their Constitutional rights and stop voter suppression? Check out all the ways you could fight voter suppression on election day.

Bonus Charts

Click here to check out the interactive version of the map below.

*Separated at Birth Extension

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 10.06.28 AM.png