GO 222 State and Local Politics

Midterm Study Guide

Spring 2013


The structure of the midterm is as follows:

 I.  Short Answer Questions:  Answer 4 out of 6  (25 minutes)

II.  Shorter Essay Question (25 minutes)

III.  Longer Essay Question (30 minutes)


You can bring in a 1 page review sheet of notes, as small a font as you want.


Short Essay Question:  I will pick ONE. (25 mins, 34%)

1.   We have examined two radically different theories for explaining state policy choice:  socio-economic status and state political culture.   Please write an essay in which you summarize the arguments of each of the two alternatives and provide specific policy examples to support their arguments.   Whose theory provides the most accurate or compelling explanation of state policy choice and why?

2.  Strong political parties are the best way to ensure facilitates positive contributions of organized interests and minimize the bias of public policy.  True or false?

a.            Why are certain state interest groups powerful and how do they use their influence to bias public policy?

b.            Compare the experience of video poker gambling interests in South Carolina in the 1990s with what would happened under the one party politics of the South described by V.O. Key.


Long Essay Question:  I will pick ONE


1.            Many of the authors we have read suggest we are in the midst of a devolution revolution, characterized by the transfer of much policy making and responsibility from the national government to state government.  Is the devolution revolution (you can abbreviate as DR) dead and should we care one way or another.   Please be sure to address:


a.            A historical assessment of the political forces in favor of devolution (Madison and Hamilton) and centralization (Bryce) and the balance of power between state and federal government.

b.            Whether a devolution revolution is happening or not?   What are the policy consequences of greater devolution of responsibilities to the states (Nathan, Donahue).

d.            The implication of the Obama Administration policies for the devolution revolution.  


2.            VO Key's magisterial Southern Politics (1949) asserts that "Politics is the South's number one problem."  Is his observation still true?

a.  Why is politics a problem for the South according to Key?

b.  What factors led to the demise of the one party South?

c.   Have Section 2 of Voting Rights Act and majority minority districts (MMDs) changed the representation of minority interests in the South? 

d.  Can Democrats compete effectively in Southern statewide elections or are we seeing the reemergence of a one-party South?.

e.  Will GOP achieve similar level of Democratic hegemony that Key describes?



Some advice for essay questions

1.      Make a coherent argument in response to each question.   Make sure you answer each sub-question and relate it back to the larger argument.

2.      Use the readings and authors' names in your answer.

3.      Use specific examples to support your arguments.

4.      Make sure to define the concepts you use in your answers.


You essay answers will be evaluated based upon:

1.      the clarity of your argument

2.      the use of the readings and lectures

3.      the creative use of examples from lectures, case studies, presentations, and readings to make your arguments



Key Concepts

Yes, some of the terms are not terms, but questions. The questions are good for identifying the significance of the terms however.

Socioeconomic vs Political Culture Explanations

demography is destiny

Grays socioeconomic explanation of politics

Population growth, population in poverty, location, climate, natural resources, per capita income

State ranking on policy indicators

changing pattern of immigration

internal migration trends

Elazars political culture model of politics

origins of state political cultures

Individualistic cultures

Moralistic subcultures

Traditionalistic culture

1.What are the origins of the three political cultures posited by Daniel Elazar? Does what you know about the politics in your state conform to the arguments he makes?  What forces may have contributed to a blending of these three cultures over time?  Have any forces worked to keep the cultures distinct?

2.            Does a states economy/demography shape its destiny? Which socio-economic variables are most important in shaping policy outcomes?  What states seem out of place in the state rankings on selected policy indicators? Why do you think this happens?


Madison and Hamiltons views states will always retain the balance of power against the federal government.

James Bryces view of assimilation

Devolution revolution

Constitutional basis of federalism

Dual federalism, layer cake model

Marble cake federalism


Tragedy of the commons

Race to the bottom

Race to the top, California effect

Corporate chartering, Delaware

Marriage, Defense of Marriage Act and Nevada

Gambling, Iowa

Nathan's view of federalism

Opportunistic federalism

Federalism as providing an  'ideological balancing role'

Executive Federalism- education Race to the Top program

Gais' perspective on trends in federalism

Obama's model of federalism

Chief Justice Roberts on Medicaid Expansion


1.            Under what circumstances do you think the national government should try to impose national standards on state and local governments? Under what circumstances do you think the state government should try to impose state standards on local governments?

2.            Should states and localities have responsibility for performaing more tasks and for raising money to pay for them? Why or why not?

Changes in Political Participation

Discuss the various structural changes states have undertaken to make mass participation easier and to increase officeholder diversity

Why did political parties die, and why have they seen a resurgence?  

endogenous versus exogenous theories of party change

Lublin, Has the Voting Rights Act Outlived its usefulness

substantive versus descriptive representation

Section 2 of Voting Rights Act

is race conscious redistricting necessary to election of minority candidates

empirical evidence of link between minority population and minority representation

trends in minority representation

relationship between the % black and latino district population and minority representation (Tables 4, 5)

limits of MMD for substantive representation (Table 1)

Key normative assumption of Lublin

Lessons of worst places to cast a ballot- specific examples, impact, and implications

Voting law changes in 2012-specific examples, impact, and implications

REDMAP's success


VO Key, Southern Politics

how parties work function in running state government

Key's test for two party system versus factionalism

origins of factions in the South

limits of factional leadership, disorganized politics

who benefits and loses from factional/disorganized politics (p. 307-8) and why

Key's views on what trends would create the emergence of a two party system in the South


Hays and McKee, Toward a One-Party South

Can Democrats compete effectively in Southern statewide elections?

trends in party identification, ideological orientation, generational change, incumbency advantage

2006 midterm election

constraints of racial voting for Democrats

Will GOP achieve similar level of Democratic hegemony that Key describes?


Interest groups

How and why has interest group activity changed since the 1970s in the states? What are driving these changes?

Gray and Lowery, theory of interest group or organizational ecology

trends in the density and diversity of state interest communities

lobby registration lists

explanation of growth of public sector lobbying

quantitative method for studying interest groups


Hrebnar and Thomas method for measuring interest group influence

Video poker in Alabama

Prison guards in California

Special interests in New York


When do interest groups or interest system result in positive contributions of lobbying and when do they corrupt politics and bias public policy?

Are gambling interests in South Carolina, prison guards in California, and special interests in New York powerful? Why?  How do we know?  What steps, if any, could be used to limit these groups power to bias public policy?

What would Gray and Lowery say is the answer to the corrupting influence of interest groups?


How are political parties and interest groups in competition with each other? Why do they sometimes cooperate?