Sunday, May 1, 2016

From Kitchens to Factories: Women Empower America in the Wake of War

During World War II, the Westinghouse Company hired J. Howard Miller to produce a poster which would eventually become an iconic part of history; however, the poster he created was actually seen very little during the war. “[Miller’s] image has become synonymous with Rosie the Riveter,” observes Jacquelyn Felix Fisher and E. W. Goodman, “the cultural icon representing the six million women who worked in manufacturing plants during World War II” (Fisher 16). A woman wearing blue coveralls with a red and white polka dot bandana is portrayed in Miller’s poster. Additionally, the text “We Can Do It!” accents the top of the image in bold white letters, as illustrated in figure 1. The use of red, white, and blue suggests an element of patriotism—an important quality during the years of World War II. Furthermore, the poster displays an element of strength in women and America, as the woman portrayed flexes her arm muscles. The war had presented new opportunities for American women and eventually reshaped the landscape between gender roles in the workforce. The use of patriotic colors, inspiring text, and the manner in which the woman is posing in J. Howard Miller’s poster argue for gender equality in the workforce as a fundamental element to the strength and democracy of America.

Fig.1. This poster made by J. Howard Miller for the Westinghouse Company was created to motivate their female factory workers during World War II (Fisher 16).

The woman in J. Howard Miller’s poster conveys an element of masculinity as she poses in a manner that reflects physical strength. Miller’s now vintage print is commonly known as Rosie the Riveter; however, it was not the original purpose of that image to portray Rosie the Riveter. The real Rosie was born from government propaganda campaigns with the goal of recruiting women into the workforce during World War II. It was an effective method used to fill worker shortages in jobs all across the country, particularly in factories and shipyards which were needed to build materials and munitions necessary for the war. As women left their homes, exchanging kitchen aprons for coveralls stained with grease, they became part of the cultural icon known as Rosie the Riveter. In 1943, Norman Rockwell created a painting of a woman with masculine features in his effort to depict Rosie the Riveter, but she was really just a dental hygienist modeling for his painting (History). The Westinghouse Company had actually released J. Howard Miller’s poster a year before Norman Rockwell’s painting in order to motivate their female factory workers. Miller’s poster portrayed a woman who maintained her femininity with makeup and red lipstick, yet she also displayed masculine elements as she held up the sleeve of her blue coveralls—often associated with factory worker’s attire—in order to convey strength by flexing her arm muscles. Melissa A. McEuen with Transylvania University wrote, “Women who stepped into male arenas had to express their femininity to prove that they had not permanently crossed a gender line. If women became masculine, men would become feminine, wartime visual logic indicated” (McEuen). Society demanded that a gap remain between the genders which placed a double standard on women. Motivational posters like Miller’s which projected the strength of women through the use of effective masculine poses helped ensure the resolve necessary for America to survive the war, yet women were still expected to maintain their femininity.

Patriotic duty drove Americans from all walks of life to build industry and military strength to heights never before achieved—something that Miller’s poster eloquently captured with the use of red, white, and blue colors. Miller’s poster represents the strength of women not only called to factory work, but also women who served in the armed forces—both at home and abroad. The deep rooted patriotism shared among Americans was united when it mattered the most, and in response, women were inspired to join the armed forces after First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt presented the idea to military leaders. The Women’s Army Corp was instituted by Congress, and eventually 350,000 women served in the armed forces during World War II (History). Although women were not in combat roles, their contribution to the war effort was crucial to victory, the same as women who worked in factories back home. America’s red, white, and blue not only symbolized patriotism, but freedom and democracy—fundamental elements that Miller aimed to capture in his painting.

The text across the top of J. Howard Miller’s poster was strategically chosen to inspire women by assuring them roles in the workforce that previously no woman would ever have an opportunity to work in. Women have constantly faced challenges with equality in the workforce, but it appeared that parity was on the horizon during World War II as propaganda efforts focused heavily on recruiting women. Unfortunately, as World War II came to an end, the government reversed their propaganda strategy encouraging women to return to house work or to previously low-paying roles in the workforce. Gender equality remained an issue of contention after the war; however, the result of women entering broader areas of the workforce ultimately shaped the future of feminist movements. Leila J. Rupp, a historian and professor of feminist studies at the University of California wrote, “For the first time, the working woman dominated the public image. Women were riveting housewives in slacks, not mother, domestic beings, or civilizers” (Rupp). Although J. Howard Miller’s poster was seen very little during the war, it would become the prominent icon for feminist movements which utilized the inspiring text to great effect.

The key elements in J. Howard Miller’s poster, including the projection of strength in women, the inspiring text, and the use of patriotic colors, all worked together to establish new roles for American women in the workforce. America became obsessed with Rosie the Riveter, but in reality she represented all of the women who traded their house work for labor intensive factory jobs. The patriotic duty of Americans also saw women serving in the armed forces for the first time in history. That same patriotism and strength of women portrayed in Miller’s poster was used to inspire later generations of feminists as they fought for women’s rights. Today women have access to more areas in the workforce than ever before; however, gender disparity remains an issue of contention. It is an ironic piece of history that Miller’s poster—originally created for a limited audience—would become more famous for women’s equality than it ever was during World War II. Although Miller’s poster was not intended to represent Rosie the Riveter, it has since become a legendary icon that endures in modern times.

Works Cited

Fisher, Jacquelyn Felix and E. W. Goodman. The Art Institute of Pittsburg. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2009. Print.

History. “Rosie the Riveter.” A&E Networks, 2010. Web. 12 Apr. 2016

McEuen, Melissa A. "Donna B. Knaff. Beyond Rosie The Riveter: Women Of World War II In American Popular Graphic Art." American Historical Review 119.2 (2014): 550-551. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Rupp, Leila J. Mobilizing Women for War: German and American Propaganda, 1939-1945. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978. Print.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Photo for Your Vote

           When consumers purchase a product with a credit card, they are often asked to present photo identification. This presumably harmless requirement designed to protect the consumer is widely accepted as a solution to credit card fraud. Likewise, some people claim that laws passed by a growing number of states which require citizens to present photo identification in order to exercise their right to vote are also designed to protect against fraud. The very definition of being an American was born from the right to vote in an open and fair election. Proponents argue that requiring photo identification is the solution to voter fraud, something they claim prevents a fair election. Conversely, opponents of such laws argue they suppress minority votes which affects the principle of open elections. Public opinion of voter identification laws is influenced by a variety of factors; some studies claim that public knowledge leads to broad support across political ideology lines, but other studies find that such laws deny equal voting rights and escalate enduring racial discrimination in the political process.

           As a mounting number of states pass voter identification laws, it is important to consider how federal legislation has sparked today’s controversy. The Help America Vote Act of 2002, or HAVA for short, is the most recent federal legislation to impact voting rights since 1993. One of the provisions from HAVA requires that citizens who have never voted in a federal election to present a form of identification when registering to vote by mail—this could include photo identification or non-photo identification, such as a utility bill. This new requirement from HAVA has inadvertently opened the door for states to pass their own legislation requiring voter identification for all citizens when casting their ballot. In 2005, Indiana passed a restrictive law which required a government issued photo identification to be presented at the polls (Stout). David Stout, a journalist with the New York Times, reported that “Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana”, filed suit in the case, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, which was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court; however, the decision was made to uphold Indiana’s law in 2008 (Stout). The resulting judgment saw a swift increase in similar laws passed by other state legislatures.

           Political ideology is reported to shape public opinion about voter identification laws. It is one factor of a study conducted by David C. Wilson and Paul R. Brewer, professors of political science at the University of Delaware. In their study, Wilson and Brewer proposed that “[an] individuals’ predispositions”, along with the level of knowledge about voter identification laws, affect public support (Wilson 964). Their results indicate a smaller percentage of those with a liberal ideology support voter identification laws as compared to conservatives and moderates; however, figure 1 from their study illustrates more than half of liberals expressed broad support for such laws. Additionally, the percentage of those who believe voter fraud is common are represented in figure 1. Their data indicates that 54% of conservatives believe fraud is common, but only 30% of liberals see it as a real issue.

Fig. 1. This bar graph from Wilson and Brewer’s research shows the percentage of support for voter identification laws across political ideology lines and the percentage of those who believe voter fraud is common (Wilson 972).

           Furthermore, their research claims to have discovered a correlation between the level of understanding with voter identification laws and the amount of support for them. Overwhelmingly, conservatives proved to have more familiarity about the laws than liberals did; thus, it can be extrapolated that they also had a higher percentage of support, according to Wilson and Brewer’s research illustrated in figure 2.

Fig. 2. This line graph illustrates how support of voter identification laws is impacted by the level of familiarity with them across political ideology lines (Wilson 977).

           Opponents argue against laws requiring voter identification on the basis of racial discrimination; they contend it is essentially the equivalent of a poll tax which serves to disenfranchise minorities and citizens of low socioeconomic status. Kristen Clarke, an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, argues that “prevailing public discourse around mandatory voter identification requirements have failed to sufficiently link the respective burdens faced by African American and Latino voters” (Clarke 9). The major argument of opponents is that voter identification laws—in particular those which require a government issued photo identification—impose restrictions on those people who do not have access or money to obtain the required identification. They contend the new laws have shifted away from making voter registration less accessible to instead suppressing the vote. Kristen Clarke focuses much attention on the low income African American population who in many cases do not have a drivers’ license or other equivalent government issued photo identification. From 2004 to 2008, there was a significant increase in the number of African Americans participating in the political process, illustrated in figure 3. The sharp rise in African American voter turnout was a result of Barack Obama’s candidacy for president in 2008.

Fig. 3. This line graph published by Paul Taylor and Mark Hugo Lopez from the Pew Research Center indicates a sharp increase in African American voter turnout beginning in 1996 with a particular increase between 2004 and 2008 (Taylor).

           Because of the increased voter turnout among African Americans, opponents of voter identification laws claim that Republicans have pushed for legislation that cripple their ability to participate in the political process. For these reasons, Kristen Clarke contends that racial discrimination remains a prevalent issue in today’s political process that dates back to the 15th Amendment which first granted African Americans the right to vote.

           Requiring voter identification has been an on-going controversy with both sides presenting valid arguments. Those who support voter identification laws strongly believe that voter fraud is a real concern and that such laws are necessary in order to protect the integrity of elections. They are quick to refute claims that voter identification laws are designed to prevent certain groups of people from participating in the political process. However, those who argue against voter identification laws see them as another method whose sole purpose is to suppress the vote, particularly African Americans, minorities of all ethnic groups, and citizens of low socioeconomic status. Given the Supreme Courts’ 2008 decision to uphold Indiana’s voter identification law, it appears that regardless of the arguments put forth from both sides, the future for all Americans will involve proof of their identity when showing up to vote in future elections.

Works Cited

Clarke, Kristen. "Burdening The Right To Vote: Assessing The Impact Of Mandatory Photo            Identification Requirements On Minority Voting Strength." Harvard Journal Of African            American Public Policy 13.(2007): 9-16. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Help America Vote Act of 2002. Pub. L. 107-252. 116 Stat. 1712. 29 Oct. 2002. Web.

Stout, David. “Supreme Court Upholds Voter Identification Law in Indiana.”            The New York Times, 29 Apr. 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

Taylor, Paul, and Mark Hugo Lopez. “Six take-aways from the Census Bureau’s voting report”.            Pew Research Center, 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

Wilson, David C., and Paul R. Brewer. “The Foundations of Public Opinion On Voter ID Laws”.            Public Opinion Quarterly 77.4 (2013): 962-984. Academic Search Complete. Web.            7 Mar. 2016.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Everyone Wants to Be Elite

     The process of finding a good bicycle in today’s inundated market—without breaking the bank—has become quite a daunting undertaking; however, the bicycle manufacturer Specialized, based in California, has made that decision easier with the production of their Tarmac Elite SL2. Watching the professionals race on leading-edge road bikes in the Tour de France is a favorite pastime of cycling fans around the world, and now they too can experience the same ride as the professionals with the Tarmac Elite SL2. For those who have not been a fan of Specialized bicycles in the past, now is the time to reconsider. After riding more than 19,000 miles on this remarkable machine, there was never any question that it outperformed all expectations in ride quality and comfort. While some short falls were noted, the Tarmac Elite SL2 proved to be the absolute best all-around choice and a prosperous investment for any avid cyclist.

     Consumers will be pleasantly surprised by the affordable cost for the Tarmac Elite SL2. This bike is tailor-made for both racers and endurance athletes on a budget with a base price around $1,800. Cycling Weekly review columnist Kenny Pryde humorously speculates that “trickle-down economics—whereby the rich getting richer is meant to help all of us—is obviously nonsense, but it looks like trickle-down technology holds, er, water” (Pryde). Thanks to that trickle-down technology, cyclists of all skills are now able to experience the same ride quality the professionals had in previous years, at a mere fraction of the cost. With the Tarmac’s closest rival priced at $3,950 for the Giant TCR Advanced 4, buyers can expect to pay more than twice the price for a product that offers lower quality engineering. The more expensive options do not always win the race, so careful consideration must be made for such a sizable investment. With the Tarmac, buyers are assured the best investment for such a versatile machine.

     When it comes to the quality of the frame and most of the components offered, the Tarmac does not disappoint. According to the manufacturer’s website, the Tarmac Elite SL2 uses “FACT IS 8r” carbon for the construction of the frame, which in conjunction “with [a] tapered head tube and elliptical seatstays” provides a stiff, yet balanced ride that is capable of performing at any level the athlete demands (Specialized). While the Tarmac does weigh more than other bikes competing in the same price range, the quality of the material on the Tarmac outweighs—no pun intended—the best of its rivals. Furthermore, the SRAM Apex groupset adds measurable value to the Tarmac, providing smooth shifting and a wide range of gears that riders will appreciate for both mountainous terrains and the windy flat lands. However, the Tarmac did fall short in a couple of areas, most notably with the wheel set made by the French company Mavic. During testing, the wheels delivered a harsh ride that compromised the character of the Tarmac. Additionally, Bike Radar columnist Guy Kesteven said the tires “[felt] scarily slippery”, but simply changing to better rubber dramatically improved the performance (Kesteven). Indeed, the Specialized Turbo Comp tires lacked significant grip, especially when cornering at or above twenty miles per hour. Despite the lackluster wheels and tires that come with the Tarmac, the handling confidence and ride quality add tremendous value to this extraordinary road bike.

     The comfort level the Tarmac offered surpassed all expectations for both long distance rides and short, high intensity efforts. With new Continental Grand Prix tires and a set of Zipp wheels, manufactured by SRAM, test rides revealed the Tarmac cruised over the roughest of roads like a graceful bird soaring through the heavens, yet it maintained the quick responsiveness necessary for navigating the tight hairpin turns on San Diego’s infamous Palomar mountain. Since the Tarmac’s design is traditionally focused on performance, ride comfort has always taken a back seat. However, the Tarmac Elite SL2 breaks from tradition with its design offering both performance and comfort. Kenny Pryde also endorsed the Tarmac’s comfort in his Cycling Weekly review saying, “given the Tarmac’s reputation for rigidity and lightweight race focus, I was expecting to be bounced into the middle of next weekend, but found myself surprised by the bike’s comfort” (Pryde). His colorful description accurately portrays the comfort a buyer can expect; however, it is also worth noting the Specialized Riva saddle that comes on the Tarmac has a spongy feel that provides too much padding for some riders. Because the saddle is the most personal component, the Riva does not warrant much criticism given the majority of riders will replace it regardless of the bike purchased. Overall, the rider’s confidence in the Tarmac’s ability to perform on demand inspires a level of comfort that is necessary in order to take risks when racing at high speeds; thus, the Tarmac’s comfort is multifaceted.

     The harsh reality is that bicycles today are a considerable investment, but the Tarmac Elite SL2 offers the best all-around value—very affordable cost, quality frame and construction that deliver a professional level of performance, and comfort that is tremendously appreciated when riding the roughest of roads. Although the Tarmac is not the lightest option, the weight difference is minuscule, especially when considering the options this bike offers in its price range. Pure and simple, the Tarmac Elite SL2 stands on top of the podium, making it a wise investment that any cyclist will be proud to own.
Works Cited

Kesteven, Guy. “Specialized Tarmac Elite: Not bad, but it feels outclassed.” Bike Radar.
     Immediate Media Company Limited, 2010. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Pryde, Kenny. “Specialized Tarmac SL2.” Cycling Weekly. Time Inc. (UK), 2012.
     Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Specialized. “Tarmac Elite Apex.” Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc.,
     2011. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Unplugged: A World Without the Internet

     Considering life today without the luxury of instant online news and entertainment is an exceptionally difficult challenge that may seem akin to a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. In her book Media Impact, Biagi (2015) speculates that “new medium or a new delivery system does not mean the end of the world” (p. 181). But how the world would be impacted by the loss of a now critical medium proposes an intriguing problem. The Internet has given humans more ways to advance as a civilization in a shorter time frame than would otherwise have been possible. While some opponents of the digital age criticize its impact on human relationships, the benefits of a connected world far outweigh any disadvantage of such an alternative reality.

     Mass media has had to constantly evolve and adapt to new technologies throughout history; today that evolution involves the Internet—the increasingly popular medium in which a growing portion of the population is turning to. The Internet is fundamentally an enormous network of computers that distributes data instantly across a wired world. According to the telecommunications marketing research and consulting firm TeleGeography (2016), there are about 550,000 miles of underwater fiber optic cables, also known as “submarine cable systems”. The lifeblood of the Internet depends on these arteries to deliver instant communication that has fueled the modern evolution of mass media. Today’s consumption of news and email are the most common uses of the Internet. There are countless websites offering every imaginable news topic that consumers could ever hope to read. Instant collaboration through email is an advantage in a capitalistic economy where trades and exchanges happen quickly; thus, candid observations reveal that life without the Internet would become increasingly more difficult.

     While the dynamics of mass media consumption over the Internet have changed the delivery methods, the types of medium that command the most importance would also evolve to a digital-less world. Since the growth of digital media, some have speculated that printed medium will eventually disappear. However, Biagi (2015) explained that book sales have been unaffected by the digital age, primarily due to publishers adapting their marketing strategies to include digital versions (p. 181). Because books remained a popular choice among consumers, it is not difficult to imagine that trend continuing without the internet. Another example that remains incredibly popular is television. The digital age has transformed the way some people access television as more choose to cut ties with cable providers in favor of streaming services online. Take the Internet away and television consumption would easily revert back to television guides and channel surfing.

     There is no question that the Internet provides clear benefits for civilization; however, some critics dispute that claim. Lehrer (2011) criticized the published work of Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T., who said “we have ‘invented ways of being with people that turn them something close to objects’ ” (Lehrer, 2011, para. 6). Such opponents of the Internet often cite that human relationships are negatively impacted because technology allows people to avoid the stress of interpersonal relationships. However, the online environment has made it easier for us to communicate with people all over the world. Consider the role of the Internet in events like the Arab Spring, which successfully used social media to organize a revolution against human injustice. Such benefits confirm that the Internet has become an invaluable technological, social, and cultural tool that has forever reshaped the world and offered greater advantages over any disadvantage raised by critics.


Biagi, S. (2015). Media Impact: An Introduction to Mass Media (11th ed.). Stamford, CT:       Cengage Learning.

Lehrer, J. (2011, January 21). [Review of the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from      Technology and Less from Each Other, by S. Turkle]. The New York Times, p. BR15.

TeleGeography. (2016, February). Telecom Resources. Submarine Cable Map. Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Essay: The Force That Binds Us Together

This was our second English Comp I assignment. It's another reader response over a review written by Jonah Lehrer, an editor at Wired magazine. His review, "We Robots", (printed in our text book, Everyone’s An Author) analyzes Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together.

The Force That Binds Us Together

     Sherry Turkle expresses concern about the dangers modern technology poses. She seems extremely critical of the fact that technology—especially robots—allows people to avoid the stress of interpersonal relationships (836). She provides an example of an 82-year-old woman who ignored her great-granddaughter in favor of a crying robotic doll (837). Driving the point home, she also criticizes the internet and the impact she believes it has on the way people communicate. Her tone sounds dreary as she describes how people today prefer sending a text message instead of making a phone call, or how more people are “trapped” by social media in an age when the things shared online never completely disappear (838). Her book gives misleading information about technology’s impact on human relationships; furthermore, she relies solely on personal feelings and observations to support her thesis.

     Jonah Lehrer paints a different picture about the technology Turkle criticized. Lehrer gives the reader an impression that he is more accustomed to technology and its benefits. In his review, Lehrer appears to share similar concerns about robots. He infers a new relationship can be a scary proposition that some people may avoid if they had a robot at home, freeing them from the anxiety associated with social expectations (837). However, a clear difference in attitudes is evident as Lehrer transitions to Turkle’s assessment of the online environment. Lehrer’s concluding point was that technology is just another “tool” people use to communicate (839). He also maintained that she did not delve deeply enough into her perspective; she failed to consider some critical questions and lacked concrete data.

     Throughout his review, Lehrer clearly states positive and flawed parts of Turkle’s book. Support for his review is well established with specific evidence in the form of statistical studies which refute the claims made by Turkle’s primary focus on qualitative criteria. The studies Lehrer cited showed the use of social media actually increases positive feelings and social interactions in the offline environment (839). Yet, Lehrer does give fair and appropriate praise by citing Turkle’s book as “fascinating” and very “readable” (839). In conjunction with the quantitate data he presents, Lehrer’s authority and credibility are established as he commands clear knowledge of technology throughout his review.

     Humans will often take the easy road when presented with a scenario that creates anxiety; therefore, Turkle’s concern about robots and their impact on human relationships does have some merit. However, candid observations indicate that Turkle’s credibility was never unequivocally established with readers. While an online search will undoubtedly locate supporting claims that technology poses certain dangers, technology in itself does not lead to psychological problems. The online environment has made it easier for us to communicate with people all over the world—in some cases with people we may have never met—which serves to unite us closer than ever before. Such close bonds are more likely to strengthen our psychological well-being; thus, technology and the online environment present greater rewards than any potential dangers cited.

Works Cited

Lunsford, Andrea [et al.]. Everyone's An Author. Ed. Marilyn Moller.
     New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013. Print.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Essay: Blurring the Lines of Literacy

This was my first English Composition I assignment. It's a reader response over Dennis Baron's essay: "Should Everybody Write?" Because our textbook was the source of information, we were only required to insert page numbers for in-text citations; however, I have included both the original source and our text book which printed that source at the bottom of this post.

Blurring the Lines of Literacy

     Just as she was poised to blog a renewed call to action, still dressed in wrinkled pajamas from the previous night, her eyeglasses conveying a sense of accomplished wisdom, every bone in her body was rocked by the sound of an explosion on the street below. Cautiously peering through her second floor window, she observed angry protesters rioting around the source of the explosion: a vehicle, now a burning pile of metal and rubber. Civil unrest has shaken the foundation of the city; indeed, shaken the very bones in her body since the police shooting of an unarmed African American. With the power of writing, this blogger provoked civil unrest by publishing her ideological beliefs about the injustice of police shootings. Thousands of subscribers shared her writings over social media, creating a domino effect known as viral posting. This explosive result demonstrates the weight written words carry as they speed across the cables of the internet super highway; therefore, authors should carefully consider the responsibility they have when choosing to publish any piece of writing.

     Civil unrest can be revisited in the long history of cultures around the world, but the impact literacy has on such a dynamic topic is complex. Baron’s essay revives an intriguing criticism about too much literacy; the concern was an abundance of literacy would raise people above their socioeconomic status, “causing depression, discontent, or even civil unrest” (710). On the surface, he seems extremely critical of recent technology which has provided the opportunities for anyone to become an author; however, his criticism does at least have some merit. In our digital world today, anyone with access to a computer and the internet—just about everyone in developed nations—has the wherewithal to express their thoughts in writing. Whether they have an education or expertise in the subject matters not. The blogger previously discussed published her writings with the intent to cause civil unrest within the community. Likewise, activists of the Black Lives Matter movement used social media to call the Missouri community of Ferguson to action, sparking extensive civil unrest over the death of Michael Brown. Certainly discontent and civil unrest can be present without the writings of activists; in fact, examples from the beginning of civilization have been well studied. Consequently, the use of tactical writing that was strategically executed through social media led to devastating ramifications within the community of Ferguson: riots broke out, cars were set on fire, and stores were looted in the chaos that ensued.

     But does the risk of civil unrest as a consequence of too much literacy prove that some people shouldn’t write, or does that single minded view appear more dangerous than the alternative? Many positive things can be attributed to increased literacy, such as leading-edge knowledge about health and diseases to the overall advancement of human civilization. Socrates believed that nothing new could be learned from literature; a brilliant yet hypocritical view, given that his thoughts on this have been remembered and taught throughout history only because Plato wrote it down (707).

     The evidence shows the 19th century concerns of too much literacy can have an impact on social and political events causing civil unrest, discontent, and even depression; however, it’s hard to imagine a world without the abundance of literacy we have today. If the consequences could be avoided with less literacy, then Thomas Gray’s famous quote “ignorance is bliss” becomes strikingly relevant. What the world must be like without the rich rewards of literacy that has made us such civilized people in the vast oceans of space and time.

Works Cited:

Baron, Dennis. "Should Everybody Write?". Web of Language. (2010). Web.

Lunsford, Andrea [et al.]. Everyone's An Author. Ed. Marilyn Moller.
     New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013. Print.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Super PACs: Not a Guaranteed Political Victory

         In politics there will always exist some influencing force. Interest groups are the largest influence who, by nature, are very much like factions in which James Madison was vocal about in "Federalist 10" when he declared, “the friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice” (Madison). Similar to factions, super PACs are the political funding machine of interest groups with the targeted, indirect support of federal candidates during an election cycle. The influence and effect they have on presidential campaigns seed controversial opinions among contrasting groups of people. Certainly the nature of super PACs could be seen as buying an election; however, the 2012 presidential election showed that it didn’t guarantee a win for the largely more populous conservative super PACs, leaving contributors to sulk in the large sums of money spent on a losing candidate.

The Reality of Super PACs

         The opportunity for unlimited money to flow into federal campaigns became a reality in 2010 with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment barred a federal law from limiting the amount of political expenditures by outside groups on the basis that it restricted political free speech (Wikipedia). It also allowed just about anyone, most notably corporations and labor unions, to contribute unlimited funds to these outside groups. Furthermore, donors can often remain anonymous thanks to loop holes in campaign finance laws which super PACs use to their advantage by funneling money through 501(c)(4) groups, also known as dark money spending.

         While super PACs have no limits on the money funneled through them, they are not permitted to coordinate strategy with candidates, which is the reason proponents argue that political corruption is not possible within a super PAC. On the other hand, good government advocates argue that this creates a large grey area by leaving room for a certain amount of interpretation. Before Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign was suspended, the chief donor Foster Friess traveled with Santorum at times, and it is argued that such trips served to strategize his campaign. Just how much independence a candidate is expected to maintain from supporting super PACs and wealthy interest groups leads to major complications and concerns in how the ever confusing campaign finance laws are interpreted and implemented. Regardless of the arguments, super PACs are an ever growing presence in today’s political landscape. Wealthy donors clearly see them as a significant method to support favorable candidates, but just how much influence they have shows less than consistent results—which proves that money alone will not guarantee victory for a candidate.

The First Big Experiment

         On paper, the theory of American elections being up for sale with the evolution of super PACs looks plausible, but there are too many dynamic variables—especially in a presidential campaign—that skew the benefit of throwing unlimited money in pursuit of victory. The 2012 presidential campaign was the first major experiment with super PACs on the national stage. With their unlimited expenditures in play, super PACs spent a total of $653 million in their efforts to influence the election (OpenSecrets). However, the Obama and Romney campaigns—with traditional campaign donations—amassed enough in their war chests to spend $1.12 billion in the general election, nearly twice as much as the super PACs.

         Voters often favor a particular party based on their own political ideology, so a candidate's characteristics become an important factor for advertising campaigns to consider as they attempt to swing voters appeal to a particular candidate. In 2012, conservative super PACs focused ad campaigns on undecided voters in battleground states who liked President Obama. Those undecided voters were seen as a crucial element for a GOP victory. Swing states tend to have a higher voter turnout which potentially correlates to more people having educated political views in those areas. However, such people are less likely to swing against the party line based on an advertisement campaign alone, which helps explain the results from voter opinion polls that revealed less than desired influence from the efforts put forth by super PACs.

         A critical factor to consider is a diminishing marginal return to campaign ads which Jamelle Bouie, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal asserts, "the more you saturate the airwaves, the less effective advertising becomes" (Bouie). Negative ad campaigns which tend to cause more frustration among voters are particularly less effective. Neil King Jr. with the Wall Street Journal notes that two of the largest super PACs supporting Romney, Americans for Prosperity and Restore Our Future, spent $18 million attempting to make Romney more competitive in Michigan and Pennsylvania, yet President Obama led by 10% in Pennsylvania and 8% in Michigan (King). Although conservative super PACs spent the most of all outside groups, Romney managed to lose the election after an unexpected campaign gaffe. Romney’s loss proves that while money is an important factor, it is not everything when it comes to winning a presidential election.

A Second Opportunity for Conservative Super PACs

         The lack of return on conservative super PAC investments in the last presidential election should have been a hard lesson learned with what appears to be an astonishing amount of money wasted; nevertheless, super PACs are set to equal or exceed spending by both of the political parties in the 2016 presidential campaign. It appears rich donors are not as politically competent as people might expect. Jamelle Bouie contends, "[rich donors] have tens of millions of dollars to spend, but there’s no guarantee that they have any sense of what makes a campaign effective. . . . To a large degree, they are political berserkers—organizations of tremendous, unfocused power" (Bouie). Furthermore, Bouie points to a piece on Buzz Feed News written by Ruby Cramer and Ben Smith who suggests, "[rich donors] are meddlers and dilettantes, full of terrible advice and inane questions" (Cramer). While rich donors have millions of dollars to spend, they’re of limited usefulness with such unfocused power—which directly impacts the effectiveness of the super PACs largely funded by those rich donors.

         Once again in the current presidential campaign it becomes obvious that money alone is not enough to claim political victory. The super PAC, Right to Rise USA who supports Jeb Bush, spent $32 million in an attempt to bring new hope into his campaign, but so far those efforts have failed. On the other hand, Marco Rubio continues to climb in the polls without any significant expenditure from his supporting super PACs. In comparison, democratic super PACs also don’t seem to have any real influence at this point in the campaign. Emilie Stigliani, a reporter for the Burlington Free Press, observed the super PAC Correct The Record, who supports Hillary Clinton, paid for a poll to be performed after the second democratic debate. The poll results were in favor of Clinton winning the debate; however the pollster said that the super PAC had no sway in the results. They claim that all questions and poll respondents were subjectively chosen by the compensated polling firm, Public Policy Polling. This contrasted to online surveys that showed Bernie Sanders won the debate in a landslide, according to a spokesperson from the Sanders campaign (Stigliani). A super PAC who expects unbiased poll results when they fund the poll themselves is an example of unfocused and poor sense displayed by wealthy donors expenditure demands of the super PACs they support.

         The danger of these modern factions backed by wealthy elites like the Koch brothers are becoming more concerning in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Koch brothers are known for their extreme political involvement and ties to conservative interest groups with their primary goals to reduce regulation, corporate taxes, and the size of government. Nicholas Confessore, a political reporter with the New York Times, notes the amount of money the Koch brothers plan to spend in the 2016 presidential election is set to match both parties' spending, "an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history" (Confessore). The Koch brothers persistent attempts to buy what are supposed to be elected positions in government—especially the White House—are incredibly bold and dangerous. Although the wealthy elite are a minority, they are nevertheless a powerful minority in which James Madison exemplified as those “who are united and actuated by a common impulse of passion with the unequal distribution of property being the most common source” (Madison). Despite the fact that evidence shows super PACs have so far lacked the influence that proponents claim they have, it is important to recognize that they have collected far more money than they have spent so far in the 2016 campaign.

The Best Opportunity at Success

         The real success of super PACs looks to be more promising in down-ticket congressional races. These results were seen in the 2014 midterms when Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time in eight years. Groups associated with Karl Rove and the Koch brothers were among the biggest winners. An article posted on Slate by Michael Beckel et. al., acknowledges Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads, helped six of the ten supported candidates claim victory. The Koch brothers had similar success with five out of the nine candidates supported winning their race (Beckel). Lee Zeldin running for New York’s 1st congressional district in the 2014 midterms enjoyed similar success when a wealthy hedge fund chief donated to a single-candidate super PAC, securing Zeldin’s GOP nomination and eventual election (Eggen).

         Super PACs were now being reported as a crucial ingredient to win a congressional race, according to Dan Eggen, the political campaigns editor with the Washington Post (Eggen). The amount of money spent by single-candidate super PACs in congressional races was three times greater in 2012 at $30.8 million, compared to $9.3 million just two years prior. The increased support to single-candidate super PACs continues an upward trend in spite of the failed influence of larger super PACs in the last presidential election. Given the national fanfare and spotlight on presidential elections, wealthy donors have realized that focused spending in down-ticket races is the best road to success. The results can be attributed to the fact that advertising campaigns are better suited for lesser known candidates in races that receive little attention in comparison to an already highly publicized presidential election.


         The evidence collectively shows that money can have an impact on the outcome of some elections, but it does not guarantee political victory. The presidential campaigns proved to be tougher for super PACs to have the desired influence that rich donors had hoped for—given the popularity of the executive race and the amount of money candidates are able to raise from traditional methods. Because the amount of money raised by super PACs is expected to match or exceed that of the parties’ campaign for the first time in history, it remains to be seen if super PACs will have more influence in the 2016 presidential election than they did in 2012. More predictable success was seen in tight congressional races in which candidates who knew wealthy people willing to contribute large sums of money had a considerable advantage over those candidates who did not have wealthy contributors. The impact of increased control over congressional elections becomes quite disturbing when considering who is spending the money. As large corporations and elite Americans increase the sums of money they contribute in order to protect their self-serving bias, and as super PACs shift more focus on congressional races, there will be an ever changing landscape in political finance, and quite likely, legislation that favors those wealthy elite.

Works Cited

Beckel, Michael, Carrie Levine, and Dave Levinthal. “Political Dividends”.
         Slate. (2014). Web. 22 November 2015.

Bouie, Jamelle. "One reason not to worry too much about Super PAC money".
         The Washington Post. (2012). Web. 22 November 2015.

Confessore, Nicholas. "Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With
         Both Parties’ Spending". The New York Times. (2015). Web. 14 November 2015.

Cramer, Ruby, and Ben Smith. "The Incredibly Dumb Political Spending Of 2012".
         Buzz Feed News. (2012). Web. 22 November 2015.

Eggen, Dan. “The Influence Industry: Congressional Incumbents Start Attracting super PACs”.
         The Washington Post. (2011). Web. 14 November 2015

King, Niel Jr. "Super PAC Influence Falls Short Of Aims". The Wall Street Journal.
         (2012). Web. 22 November 2015.

Madison, James. “Federalist 10.”
         Constitution Society, (1998). Web. 30 October 2015. “Presidential Race”. (2012). Web. 30 October 2015.

Stingliani, Emilie. “Pollster: Clinton super PAC had no sway in results”.
         Burlington Free Press. (2015). Web. 21 November 2015.

Wikipedia. “Citizens United v. FEC”. (2010). Web. 30 October 2015.