Midterm Election Night Analysis

Below you will find some of the comments I sent to the media, who asked for them, after the 2014 Midterm Elections in the U.S. and in West Virginia particularly.

What surprised you about the results? (National Elections)

Honestly, I am not really surprised by the overall results of the election. It is not surprising that the Republicans kept their majority in the House of Representatives. Also, given the election models I have seen, it is highly likely that the Republicans will take control of the Senate as well. In fact, every president since Harry Truman (1946) has lost same party seats in the House of Representatives, with two exceptions, 1998 and 2002. In 1998, we can speculate that the strength of the economy and President Clinton’s high popularity had the most to do with the net gain of 4 House seats. In 2002, we can, again, speculate that President Bush’s high approval ratings and the proximity to 9/11 played a major role in the net gain of 8 House Seats. In terms of the Senate, the same is basically true as well. Most presidents have lost same party Senate seats in the midterm elections, especially when they are considered lame ducks. Bush gained two Senate seats in 2002, Reagan gained 1 in 1982, Nixon gained 2 in 1970, and Kennedy gained, I think, 3 1962. Every other president from Truman onward lost Senate Seats in the midterms.

This fundamental election reality can basically be explained by the economy and presidential popularity, which are often correlated. When presidents are popular and on the ballot themselves, they allow potential congresspersons to ride into Washington and the statehouses on their coattails. When the presidents are not very popular and not on the ballot, the opposing party is able to exploit this to their advantage. Thus, using the president’s unpopularity and policy priorities against the president’s party in the midterms, presidents often lose same party seats in both chambers of the Congress. Additionally, candidates can blame the incumbent president for, basically, all of the problems facing the electorate.

In terms of the WV races, again, I am not really surprised by the overall outcomes. Thinking about what I said earlier, President Obama is incredibly unpopular in West Virginia. As was the case in 2010, he lost the greatest amount of House of Representative seats in modern American history, more than any other president. In 2014, his approval rating is a little less than it was in 2010 this close to the election, which is not surprising for a lame duck president. Nevertheless, that will surely hurt the Democratic candidates in their bids for election. Pertaining to the economy, some of the most pertinent and important indicators are significantly better such as unemployment and overall economic growth. However, not everyone can feel those changes and thus do not think the economy is better or as good as it is for some individuals.

Who were the biggest winners? 

I am not sure who the biggest winners are in the election. However, I think it is safe to say that, potentially, the biggest loser in this election is West Virginia. In the last 4 years, WV has lost Senator Byrd, Senator Rockefeller, and Congressman Rahall, who had a combined 117 (80 years for Byrd and Rockefeller) years of service to West Virginia. Despite what one thinks of either of these three politicians and their political positions, they have brought an inestimable amount of money, jobs, and resources back to West Virginia, whether in the form of earmarks, funding formulae, or capital projects. All of that seniority, positions of power, and political influence will be gone from the Congress. Capito has some clout but much of that will not transfer from the House to the Senate. Those that represent WV in Congress are nowhere near as politically powerful as the three aforementioned. I think that there will be a change in the relationship between WV and the federal government after this election; WV will not have the political clout it has had for decades and will lose much of what it gets federally. This will obviously change as the elected grow into their positions. Granted, some will think this change in power is a very good thing, both politically and ideologically.

Who ran the best campaigns? 

I am not really sure how to answer this question. There are too many value judgments assumed in the terms. One could say that whomever won ran the best campaign. The truth of the matter is that nearly every campaign is negative. The reason being that it actually works, despite how much we do not like it. The negative approach to campaigning has been around since the beginning of the Republic. (In)Famously, Thomas Jefferson’s campaign called John Adams a, “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Which, in turn, the Adams campaign responded by saying that Jefferson was, “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Negative campaigning is here to stay.

Secondly, every campaign ad in WV seemed to consist of who was more like President Obama and how that is bad. Each ad was more about the fear of what the other candidate would do, how they would do it like Obama, and the reasons for why you should not vote for that person. Each person ignored the good that has been done by some of Obama’s policies, particularly how the uninsured rate dropped from 17% to about 6.5%, as one example. Aside from that, neither candidate really did a good job of explaining what they would do in Washington. Nevertheless, this is typical. It is easier for a candidate to run against something than for something, as it is more difficult to hold them accountable that way.

How the Jenkins/Rahall race was run, challenger vs. long-standing incumbent?

I think each side of the campaign, particularly Congressman Rahall, would like everyone to think that the race was dominated by outside interests and ‘dark’ money. Granted, this is the most expensive campaign to date. The estimates are as high as $3.6 billion spent on every midterm race in this election. Some estimates state that half of all spending in the WV-3rd District, however, are independent expenditures. So, there is some truth to his claim. We will not fully know, however, because after the Citizen’s United Supreme Court case, many of the contributions and expenditures do not have to be disclosed.

However, Rahall has raised about $1 million dollars more than Jenkins and he has the incumbent advantage. House races are a little more complicated to predict. Nevertheless, the incumbent advantage for House members typically means that Rahall has about a 90% chance of holding onto his House seat. Having said that, now that WV is rapidly shifting from a blue state to a red state, there is no way that Rahall’s victory is that secure. The very fact that he engaged in the debate with Jenkins this year indicates that his internal numbers show that he would possible lose this race. Granted, the early voting for his district showed a strong turn out for the Democrats, which are often more likely to vote early. However, it does not mean that they all will vote for him. As most predictions have the 3rd WV congressional district leaning Republican.

As it pertains to the Tennant and Capito Senate campaign, I am both really surprised and not really surprised at the same time. Given that most individuals vote according to their registered party, it is odd that Tennant was not able to win this election. Democrats outnumber Republicans as registered voters well over 20%. Moreover, almost 18% of registered voters in WV are independents. We have to assume that many of those independents lean democratic and would typically vote democratic. This is somewhat surprising that Tennant could not secure a victory with such an advantage.

However, it is not that surprising when you factor in how unpopular President Obama is here, almost 63% of persons polled think he is not doing a good job as president. Capito’s campaign strategy mostly hinged on connecting Tennant to Obama, making their policy actions tantamount—eradicating the Democratic advantage. Moreover, most of the predictive analytics I have seen on the WV Senate race gives Tennant only a 2% chance of beating Capito. It does not mean she cannot win; however, it means that the chances of her winning are seriously diminished and improbable. This is not surprising given the fact that Capito outraised Tennant by nearly $4 million. Typically, not always, but mostly whoever raises the most amount of money for a Senate campaign wins that campaign.

Having said that, WV has elected its first female Senator, which could be a sign of things to come for some of the gender inequality in our elected positions. Some would welcome this trend given that WV has only 5% of its elected state and national figures as women. Although that number will not change that much given that Capito is simply going from the House to the Senate and her House seat will be replaced by a male. It could signal a shift in who runs for office in WV.

What does this election say about voters looking to 2016? 

Secondly, I think that it is important to note that this is WV’s first Republican Senator since 1956, which is probably a sign of things to come for WV. WV will most likely move from a solidly Democratic state to a Republican state in the upcoming years. Some of this will depend on the major party candidates for president in 2016. For instance, Hilary Clinton does quite well in WV as did her husband. If she is the candidate, we could possibly see a Democratic renewal of state and national seats as they ride her coattails to victory (assuming of course she runs and wins).

As the famous quote goes, “all politics are local.” Which, to me, means that this midterm election does not say much about how things will go nationally in 2016. It is, without a doubt, too early to tell. There is no mandate and there certainly is no 2016 mandate. If anything, it shows that those who decided to vote in WV, which I assume will be around 30% of eligible voters, simply did not like Obama and connected the state’s Democrats to him despite their desperate attempts to separate themselves from him and his policies.

Thank you for your time. I hope this helps.

I hope all is well,

Damien

Have you bought my new book? “Economic Actors and Presidential Leadership”

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ECONOMIC ACTORS, ECONOMIC BEHAVIORS, AND PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP 

THE CONSTRAINED EFFECTS OF RHETORIC 

BY C. DAMIEN ARTHUR 

https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780739187838

For a discount on the book, click here – Arthur flyer

ABOUT THE BOOK 

There is considerable disagreement about whether the U.S. president has a direct and measurable influence over the economy. The analysis presented in Economic Actors, Economic Behaviors, and Presidential Leadership: The Constrained Effects of Rhetoric suggests that while presidents have increased their rhetoric regarding the economy, they have not had much success in shaping it. Considering this research, Arthur argues that the president’s decision to address the economy so often must stem from a symbolic placation or institutional necessity that is intended to comfort constituencies or somehow garner electoral advocacy from the party’s base. No other viable explanation exists given the lack of results presidents obtain from discussing the economy and their persistent determination to do so. This discrepancy suggests that presidential rhetoric on the economy is, at best, a tool used to appear concerned to everyone and toe the party-line to their base. Arthur presents an overview of economic rhetoric from the presidential office that will be of interest to scholars of the economy and political communication.

 

Reviews

 “Using the president’s rhetoric on the national economy as an analytic wedge, this nicely written study adds to our understanding of the role presidential rhetoric plays—and fails to play—in influencing policy making and policy makers. C. Damien Arthur’s book will be of particular interest to students and scholars with an interest in economic policy, presidential rhetoric, and the ways in which they intersect.”

—Mary E. Stuckey, Georgia State University

“C. Damien Arthur’s Economic Actors, Economic Behaviors, and Presidential Leadership takes a skeptical and data-driven look at a major question for scholars of the presidency: does presidential rhetoric matter, and if so, how? The book is sure to be of interest to students of presidential rhetoric.”

—Thomas W. Benson, Pennsylvania State University

 

About the Author

C. Damien Arthur is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at West Virginia State University, a Public Land-Grant and Historically Black University (HBCU). His research has focused upon, primarily, presidential rhetoric in relation to salient policies such as economics, institutional interaction, and immigration as well as religion. His most recent work has been published in Presidential Studies Quarterly and Sociological Spectrum.

He completed a Ph.D. in Political Science at West Virginia University. He has an M.A. in American Public Policy and an M.P.A. in Public Administration from West Virginia University. He also completed an M.T.S. in Religion, Culture, and Personality at Boston University’s School of Theology, magna cum laude. He received a B.A. in Theological Studies from Gordon College in Wenham, MA.

 

The Contextual Presidency: The Negative Shift in Presidential Immigration Rhetoric

Presidential Speeches on Immigration2My latest article was just published in Presidential Studies Quarterly. It is entitled, “The Contextual Presidency: The Negative Shift in Presidential Immigration Rhetoric.”

The abstract is below:

Party platforms from 1993 through 2008 show a positive approach to immigration policy. Presidential rhetoric, however, does not match the tone of the platforms. There are negative frames (illegality, criminality, terrorism, and economic threats) in nearly 50% of immigration speeches. We argue that social context motivates presidents to talk about immigration negatively. This analysis provides insight into rhetoric as responsive to context rather than a mechanism of power. We coded each speech on immigration from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and found statistically significant results that show that immigration rhetoric is more negative when certain social conditions are present.

The (gated) link to the article is below:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/psq.12041/abstract

Commencement

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Completing a dissertation in political science at West Virginia University is no easy task for an individual. It takes a significant amount of work, dedication, and, most importantly, collaboration with others. Therefore, I must recognize the help of many other individuals, whether they provided support that helped my work or encouragement of my commitment to it. Their contributions and support were instrumental in this undertaking and deserve mention. Even though the words pale in comparison, thank you for everything—as insignificant as it sounds.

I would like to mention a few specific individuals who made this original research and small contribution to knowledge possible. The first and foremost has to be Robert DiClerico, Ph.D., who chaired the committee for this dissertation. His passion for the Presidency, his socratic-method approach to teaching, and his legendary seminar on the American Presidency cultivated my interest in the president and engendered in me the desire to use my dissertation to learn more about this area of research. He is the quintessential professor: rigorous, engaging, and challenging as well as friendly and approachable. I will continuously strive to emulate him as a scholar, professor, and academician. His presence provided continual encouragement regarding my ability to undertake this and future scholarly endeavors. I am not able, in the space allotted, to say enough about how much I owe to Dr. DiClerico for his help with this project. He provided guidance, questions, and comments that enhanced this research and enabled me to think about the Presidency as would a serious scholar. Dr. DiClerico’s fastidious and meticulous approach to the use of language has, without doubt, made this a better and more readable piece of research. I am honored to have had him as the Chair of my dissertation. I am forever in his debt.

I would like to thank Richard Brisbin, Jr., Ph.D., for his incredible insight and comments about this project. His unmatched intellect and memory helped me tremendously during the construction of this dissertation, the writing of the actual project, and the editing of the final product. Moreover, he has challenged me to be a better scholar, researcher, and teacher throughout this entire process. The seriousness with which he approaches scholarship is noteworthy. Dr. Brisbin has contributed to the field of political science by publishing voluminously; I can only hope to follow, in some small way, his example of scholarship.

I would also like to thank Jason MacDonald, Ph.D., for all of the time and effort he put into helping me make this dissertation better. Dr. MacDonald provided me with many productive revision suggestions and comments about how to connect my infant ideas to a sound theory that was grounded in the extant research. His constructive criticism was instrumental in the final draft of this dissertation. Mostly, however, I would like to thank him for his insistence in ensuring that the statistical model and specification of my dissertation made sense and did not violate any assumptions or rules. Without his guidance, this dissertation would not have the statistical rigor that accompanies political science research. Moreover, I would like to thank Dr. MacDonald for his commitment to political science scholarship and his goal of making sure that all political science graduate students at West Virginia University understand how to contribute to the discipline in a professional manner.

I must also mention my appreciation for Jeff Worsham, Ph.D., who provided valuable comments, insights, and constructive criticism about this research. He was able to help guide my research into a more comprehensive and scholarly attempt. He helped me to conceptualize an initial idea, develop it empirically, and articulate it in a scholarly manner. He has continually challenged me to produce concise and articulate scholarly writing. His constant encouragement about “putting a brick in the wall of research” and “not building the entire wall” helped to alleviate many of the pressures that dissertation writing brings to graduate students. Moreover, Dr. Worsham, as the graduate director, was instrumental in my progress throughout the Ph.D. degree. Without his guidance and direction, it would have been easy to unnecessarily prolong my time in the program. For his help, I am truly grateful.

This original research could not have transpired without the work of other scholars who have come before me. Their work provides insight and inspiration. Moreover, their creativity and inquisitive approaches to the Presidency have engendered an abundant collection of research that, once understood, can lead to further studies that advance knowledge. Suffice it to say, I am forever grateful that I can stand upon their shoulders and contribute to the literature and research on the Presidency, however small that contribution may be. These scholars are numerous; I would, however, like to mention a few of the most prominent and most significant: Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, Ph.D.; George C. Edwards, III, Ph.D.; Jeffrey Tulis, Ph.D.; Dan Wood, Ph.D.; Jeffrey Cohen, Ph.D.; Paul Light, Ph.D.; and Richard Neustadt, Ph.D.

I would also like to thank a few of the professors I have previously studied under during my educational pursuits. Their passion for teaching and research cultivated my interest in graduate school and scholarly endeavors. Their encouragement helped me along the way to develop my own path: Steven Hunt, Ph.D. (Gordon College); Norman Faramelli, Ph.D. (Boston University); Stanley Marrow, SJ, Ph.D. (Boston College); Gerald Pops, Ph.D. (West Virginia University); Jennifer Hevelone-Harper, Ph.D. (Gordon College); Carol Bohn, Ed.D. (Boston University); Roger Green, Ph.D. (Gordon College); Kevin Madigan, Ph.D. (Harvard Divinity); John Kilwein, Ph.D. (West Virginia University); François Bovon, Ph.D. (Harvard Divinity); Adrianne Williams, Ph.D. (West Virginia University); Paul Borgman, Ph.D. (Gordon College); Robert Duval, Ph.D. (West Virginia University); V. Rev. John Behr, D.Phil. (St.Vlad Seminary).

It is to my wife, Joni R. Magnusson, that I owe the most thanks for helping with the writing of this dissertation. She always provided the type of support I needed to keep me sane and focused. She is, without a doubt, the smartest, most beautiful, and most determined individual I have ever met. She is steady in the pursuit of her goals. I have never seen a person work harder than she does. Over the years, this attitude and perspective have motivated me to be the same way. I am forever grateful for her presence in my life. I never would have had the fortitude to undertake or complete such a thing as a Ph.D. had it not been for her encouragement. I am unable to count the number of times I returned home to tell her about my plan to leave school due to my inability to cope. It is because of her support that I never quit and continued onward in my pursuits. I must also mention how much I appreciate the fact that she edited many of my undergraduate and graduate papers as well as this dissertation. Her ability to help me clarify my scattered ideas and her consistent willingness to be patient with the subject matter, and my feeble attempt at explaining it, are nothing short of saintly. Moreover, I have to mention what a great wife she is and mother she will continue to become. From the first time I saw her, I have been and continue to be enamored of her. I hope that our daughter can become the strong woman her mother is. She makes me want to be a better man and person. My life is forever enriched by her presence in it. I love her so much, and I cannot wait to see what life has in store for us and our future.

I would like to thank my daughter Sophia Katherine, an incarnation of pure joy and happiness. Her smile is illuminating and life-changing. While writing this dissertation, I saw her develop from a newborn to a toddler. I will never forget the many nights she slept on my chest as I wrote and wrote. Her mere presence was motivating and inspiring. I am so proud of her. I thought that the day she was born was the most amazing day of my life; every day since then, however, has been more rewarding and fulfilling. Being Sophie’s dad is the most humbling, greatest privilege and honor I have ever experienced. I love her so much, and I look forward to the many more years we have ahead of us as a family.

I would also like to thank Joshua Woods, Ph.D., a friend, colleague, and mentor of sorts. Not only did he help with “simplifying” my dissertation research, which vastly improved my operationalization, he has also shown me, practically and candidly, what it means to be a scholar and producer of original knowledge. During our collaborative scholarly work, he helped me learn valuable research and writing skills that I will use for the rest of my career. Moreover, he has, on many occasions, mentioned his confidence in my ability to be a teacher and researcher at a university. This encouragement, coming from such an accomplished academician, makes me believe that I can accomplish my goals and undertake such lofty endeavors with great aplomb.

I would like to thank Cindy Drumm, the Director of the Student Support Services Center at West Virginia University where I worked while completing this degree, as well as the other staff, namely Vivian Lama, Vanessa Harrison, and Heather Van Gilder as well as Sherry Rose, Erica Bentley, Kylie Evans, and most importantly, the students of SSS. I am so appreciative of their encouragement and support for the pursuit of higher education. Without the flexibility allowed me in my work schedule, I would never have been able to finish this dissertation. Moreover, the encouragement and inspiration I received from so many first-generation and low-income students was humbling and nearly life-changing.

I would specifically like to thank the West Virginia State University for hiring me as an Assistant Professor of Political Science. It is an honor to have been selected for this opportunity; the greatest career in the world. The support and flexible schedule that accompanied this prestigious position enabled me to write this dissertation more successfully. Moreover, the privilege to teach and mentor students from the great state of West Virginia is an honor and the fulfillment of a lifelong goal. I am so grateful for the trust they bestowed upon me and for the confidence they have in me.

I cannot have an acknowledgements section without mentioning my fellow graduate students who were either dealing with the same challenges as I was or were about to enter into the comprehensive exam or dissertation writing phases of their studies. Thank you for always listening to my complaints and sharing in my successes. Having fellow graduate students around to take part in the process of complaining, bickering, and dissecting failures as well as the sharing of camaraderie, productive discussion, and profound insights was greatly cathartic.

I must also make mention of the many other persons who made this goal of mine possible. I am sorry that I am forgetting, in my post-dissertation writing and defense stupor, to mention you by name. Please know that I am grateful and appreciative of all your help.

Graduate School: To go, or not to go, is that the question?

PhD_graduand_shaking_hands_with_Sir_Dominic_Cadbury,_the_Chancellor_of_the_University_of_Birmingham_-_20120705

If you read the Chronicle of Higher Education, Slate Magazine, or the New York Times, you have come across a story about the decision of whether or not to go to graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. It is a topic of much concern within the academic community, particularly given the budget crises, the lack of available jobs, and the ethics surrounding whether or not to encourage our students to attend when the likelihood of a tenure track job is nearly improbable.

As a social scientist, I know the numbers regarding jobs, the statistical likelihood of being ‘successful’ on the job market. Please do not let what I am about to say fool you with regard to my understanding. I just came from the market. I NEVER want to go there again. However, I must also contribute an anecdote to this discussion, given my experience.

I was the first person in my family to attend college. In fact, no one had even graduated from high school. My community knew drugs, alcoholism, prison, and the common theme between them all, poverty. The opportunity to go to college kind of just happened. I never planned it, no one really ever talked to me about it. When I say opportunity, I mean opportunity. I have no idea how it happened. I had a 1.8 high school GPA, and no idea how to pay for it or what to study. Were it not for the Pell Grant …? I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

I was not a terribly bright student. I made average grades. I did work hard, however. I made all the mistakes and faced all of the challenges that first generation low-income students encounter. I managed to transfer to a better school, Gordon College, a small-liberal arts college on the North Shore of Boston (How my heart breaks for Boston and those injured right now). I graduated in 2004. I developed a desire to learn more, more about myself and about the world, and my place in it.

What an easy four words to write. However, it was not so easy. Being a first generation college student and a low-income student puts you in a unique category. Only 5% of those students in the low-income quartile brackets graduate from college. First-generation and low-income college students have higher drop-out rates, higher stress rates, and lower levels of traditional support. When you couple this with my 1.8 high school GPA, I had about a 3% chance of finishing college within six years of finishing high school.

I did attend graduate school at Boston University. If you want to know more about my academic life, click here. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Political Science. I graduated in a reasonable amount of time and secured a tenure track position at West Virginia State University, a Land Grant HBCU, which I love. I have great students. I publish. I contribute to the academic community. I guess it is easy for me to make this argument given that I found your version of ‘success’ rather quickly, but my point is still valid.

Obviously not everyone is going to find a tenure track job. The numbers do not lie. However, I think that the current discussion about whether to pursue a Ph.D. is one sided and inappropriate. Of course the tenured faculty at Tier 1 Research schools are correct about the fact that if you go to graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. you will fail, if you graduate. And, you will fail more miserably if you do not attend a Tier 1 research school. Do you know why they are correct? They are only defining ‘success’ as a Tenure Track job at their Tier 1 Research school.

These faculty are telling others not to even attempt to pursue this form of higher education. I am utterly flummoxed by this line of thinking in my community. Why are they doing this? At what point did we, as society, discourage people from trying to overcome the odds of a difficult problem? What about the fight? What about David and Goliath, Prometheus and Zeus, Sparta and Thermopylae, Martin Luther and the Catholic Church, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendements and Southern stubbornness, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jim Crow, Women and the World, Hilary Clinton and the World, Barack Obama and America’s racist history, and on and on we could go forever. Overcoming difficult odds is the Human story, the American dream and promise of a better world.

It seems to me that there is a propaganda machine at work. I know that William Pannapacker and Daniel Drezner, amongst others, think they are providing advice that will make it easier for those that would have ‘failed’ at becoming that which they seek. I would assume that they believe that they have an ethical responsibility to ‘warn’ people that pursuing a Ph.D. is dangerous, both financially and emotionally. These arguments have some merit. However, the arguments need serious clarifications.

I think that in their current form, they perpetuate elitism. The elite remain the elite. There is no opportunity for class change. There is no opportunity for intellectual diversity. If Ph.D. work is dangerous and not worth the risk, who will pursue it? Only those with nothing to lose? The elite have no risk in their pursuit of the Ph.D. The risk is for the poor, minorities, and downtrodden. Their articles suggest what is best for those thinking of pursing a Ph.D., only mentioning the negatives, only mentioning that a person will not be a tenure track professor. They never mention the enjoyment and the rewards of pursuing graduate work. They never mention overcoming.

Ph.D. students are some of the most intelligent, creative individuals. They spend hours every day trying to locate problems and then creating models that solve those problems. Why do we want fewer persons like this in the workforce? Why do we want to discourage such hard workers from producing solutions to complex problems? Why do we want fewer critical thinkers at the highest levels participating in any market?

Personally, what if I had listened to them? If I had not even tried to beat the odds of attending college? Seriously, who bets on 3%? Who takes that chance? No one! The odds of me graduating from college were abysmal. Should I have not tried graduate school either? Where is the spirit of rising to a challenge? Where is the fight? At what point do we let ‘odds’ determine what we pursue, what life we want, what type of society we want? The odds are always against us. There is always a reason not to do something, not to change your life or your neighbor’s life. The highest levels of education are an illuminating force. They can provide a person with opportunities that might not otherwise exist, particularly for the poorest of society. Education provides those persons with choices, and the ability to think through those choices; something that true poverty completely obliterates.

Pursing and completing a Ph.D. was the most difficult thing I have ever done. It was mind-grueling work. I worked 70 plus hours a week for about $10,000 a year. It challenges every aspect of your identity, personhood, and future life. You are immersed in a world that suffocates you with the notion that a tenure track research job is the only measure of success; it is the only reason to pursue such a level of higher education.

Nevertheless, it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. In a complex sisyphean manner, there is beauty and power in the work itself. The constructed ‘outcome’ is irrelevant. The work literally changes who you are and the way you think. It breaks you down to nothing and then rebuilds you in a completely different way. So, do not tell me that if those persons discouraged from pursuing a Ph.D. are smart, they will still be successful if they chose not to pursue the Ph.D. Some persons ‘become’ during the degree. Learning from the process makes you different. It gives a person skills, substantive critical and analytical thinking, and an ability to process multiple perspectives simultaneously, all the while understanding the nuances of an argument with which you disagree while simultaneously contemplating a solution to the posited extant problem.

Instead of simply presenting the myriad of negative aspects, would we not be better served to think of other careers for Ph.D.’s, other ways to contribute to society, rather than simply defining ‘success’ as a tenure track research job. For instance, 53% of political science Ph.Ds work for the federal government. There are other areas wherein Ph.Ds could contribute. Could they not better the workforce in advising, industry, and healthcare, et cetera? Could not the military be better with more Ph.Ds? Could not our high schools be better with more Ph.Ds? Could not our lawmakers, bankers, lawyers?

Are not those faculty members such as William Pannapacker and Daniel Drezner actually perpetuating the problem? Are not they actually the failures? They are facilitating the prepostrus notion that if a person does not get a tenure track position at a Tier 1 research school, that person has somehow failed to reach the ultimate goal. Have they not failed by constructing a pseudo-reality of ‘success’ and then criticizing the system that they actually created? Have they not failed for not embracing their responsibility to see the larger picture with regards to defining the successful outcome of a Ph.D.? A tenure track research job is not the only answer. What about defining ‘success’ as the completion of a Ph.D.? What you do afterwards is not the measure of ‘success’.

Economic Demagoguery: The Limited Effects of Presidential Rhetoric

This is the abstract from my recently approved dissertation. It was defended on November 8, 2012 and approved for publication on the WVU’s ETD website on February 19, 2013.

At this time, chapters (3 and 4) are in the process of revision for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Simultaneously, I am drafting a book proposal for an academic, university press.

A link to the dissertation can be found here:

https://sites.google.com/site/damienarthurphd/publications

Abstract

Given that there exists considerable disagreement about whether the president has a direct and measurable influence over the economy, I decided to research this divergence of views further (Edwards, 2003; Edwards, 2009; Eshbaugh-Soha, 2005; Wood, 2007; Dolan, Frendreis, & Tatalovich, 2008; Cohen, 1995; Beck, 1982; Golden & Poterba, 1980). In my review of the literature, I found that there is research, improperly measured from my perspective, that claims the president is the most powerful economic leader in the United States and that his words have the power to move economic actors and indicators (Wood, 2007). To show these effects statistically, the literature measures the spending, borrowing, and investing of consumers and businesses—economic actors and their perceptions about the strength of the economy from 1981 through 2005. Consumers take cues from the president about their economic futures. If he is positive about the economy in his speeches, then consumers respond accordingly, thus reinforcing positive outcomes in the economic indicators. The literature claims that the optimism present in presidential speeches about the economy was able to influence consumer confidence, which affected macroeconomic performance (Wood, Owens, & Durham, 2005).

This literature and the data sources used raise more questions than answers and produce findings that require further inquiry. For instance, suggesting that optimism in the president’s rhetoric is the impetus in the changes to the Consumer Confidence Index is the wrong approach. Given the disconnect between a president’s optimism and this data source of the economy’s health, I maintain that this approach does not withstand scrutiny (Wood, 2007; Eshbaugh-Soha, 2006).

Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation was to utilize a better approach for analyzing the effectiveness of the president’s rhetoric and then employ a statistical methodology that would allow me to measure its effect on the economy. Through this exercise, I determined that presidents have little direct influence over economic indicators. Their influence comes only from externalities, such as party coalitions, and the connections they are able to create with economic actors. Determining presidential influence over the behaviors of economic actors and using the correct data sources allows for a better research operationalization than arguing that the president’s ability to change economic indicators comes from his position as the most important economic actor in the system (Wood, 2007; Wood, Owens, & Durham, 2005; Zarefsky, 2004; Cavalli, 2006).