Growing Latino Gender Differences on Key Policy Issues

By Christina Bejarano

Originally posted at


We continue to witness the very emotional and controversial debates over several key issues, including ‘women’s issues’ and immigration policy. This is especially evident at the wake of President Obama’s announcement of executive action on immigration. As we look to the key issues that will motivate Latinos to participate in politics, it is important to understand differences across gender.

We cannot assume that all Latinos will share a common attitude on the significant political issues of the day. What issues will persuade Latinos to provide the crucial electoral support to either political party or political candidate? I am interested in answering these questions in terms of variation among Latinos based on gender. How do Latino male and female attitudes differ? It is especially imperative that political officials and political parties understand how their policy and electoral strategies influence the Latino community.

In the United States since the 1980s, women generally hold more liberal policy positions than men. In terms of specific policy views, women are often more supportive of a more activist role for government, more supportive of affirmative action and efforts to achieve racial equality, and more supportive of programs to guarantee quality health care and meet basic human needs (CAWP 1997). Based on this gender trend, we would expect Latinas to also demonstrate a modern gender gap, with more liberal political views than their male counterparts. However, previous researchers have generally found few gender differences for racial/ethnic minority preferences. This includes few gender differences on the most politically salient issues for particular racial/ethnic or gender groups. Instead, the greatest influence on Latino public opinion is generally whether they were born in the United States or the amount of time they have lived in the country (Sanchez 2006). Latinos who have been in the U.S. for shorter amounts of time are generally more likely to support public policies that will help allocate funding to those in need. More recent research finds that there are small gender differences on Latino views on gender issues, with Latinas expressing more support for policies that will help promote gender equality in the U.S.

In the two most recent elections, 2012 and 2014, Latinos identified the most important issues facing the Latino community as the economy, immigration reform, education, and healthcare (Election Eve Polls). The set of policy issues do not change dramatically across both elections, except for the top issue changing from the economy in 2012 to immigration reform in 2014. The gender differences are also minor, with slightly more Latinas reporting that health care and education are important to the Latino community, compared to Latino males who were more likely to choose immigration reform.




In my book, The Latino Gender Gap in U.S. PoliticsI found Latinos generally support more liberal policy views, with Latinas generally more liberal than Latino men. The policy areas include gender related issues, reach of government policies (government income support, support the Affordable Care Act continuing as law) and Immigration-Related policies (such as disapproval of workplace raids). A key set of government policies relate to the debate over immigration reform. This set of policies address the support for President Obama given his potential to impact immigration policy. In June 2012, President Obama introduced a deferred action policy for undocumented youth. Latinos generally reported feeling more enthusiastic (53 percent) about Obama after his deferred action policy announcement rather than less enthusiastic (9 percent) (2012 Election Eve Poll). While, 33 percent of Latinos responded that their enthusiasm for Obama was not affected after his June 2012 announcement. There was also a gender gap in the responses, with Latinas showing more enthusiasm for Obama after his announcement compared to Latino males.

More recently, Latinos were asked about their potential enthusiasm for the Democratic Party if President Obama was able to issue an executive order on immigration in 2014. Incidentally, Latinos were asked this question on the eve of the 2014 midterm election, which was actually a couple of weeks before President Obama’s historic announcement of executive action on immigration. Again, Latinos report feeling more enthusiastic (58%) about the Democratic Party if President Obama were to issue an executive order on immigration in 2014 (2014 Election Eve Poll). In terms of gender, more Latinas report they will feel enthusiasm for the Democratic Party after the executive order, compared to the Latino males.



The battle over health-care is also particularly salient for Latinos, given their higher likelihood of being uninsured (29.1 percent in 2012) compared to the general population (15.4 percent) (U.S. Census 2013). The first policy is a measure of Latino support for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (2012 Election Eve Poll). A majority of Latinos, 66 percent, support allowing Obama’s Affordable Care Act to continue to stand as law. In addition, the majority of Latinos (66%) believe that when it comes to access to health care, the federal government should play a role to ensure that all people have access to health insurance. More recently, the majority of Latinos also believe their respective states (TX, FL, GA, KS, and NC) should accept federal money to expand the Medicaid program so that more low-income people have access to health insurance (2014 Election Eve Poll). In terms of gender, more Latinas (70%) than Latino males (62%) agree the government should ensure access to health insurance. While more Latino males than Latinas support the Affordable Care Act continuing as law and expanding the Medicaid program.

Figure_3 Bejarano


The majority of Latinos also generally support several other key policies that include a greater reach of government. The majority of Latinos, 78%, favor raising the federal minimum wage from 7.25 to 10.10 an hour. In terms of the environment, 84% of Latinos also believe it is important that the federal government take measures to reduce carbon pollution that is causing global warming or climate change. Across these two issues, Latinas also report higher levels of support than Latino males.

Overall, the results can be linked to Latinos’ depth of support for more liberal public policies, which was especially true for Latinas. In fact, the polling of Latinos throughout the 2012 and 2014 elections, demonstrated there is a significant gender gap in support of the more liberal public policies. In terms of which party to trust on ‘women’s issues’, Latinas also had an overwhelming support for the Democrats over the Republicans in 2012, 78% compared to 13% (Manzano 2012). As a result of Latinas’ increased support of more liberal public policies, they may also be more likely than Latino males to support the Democratic Party and their candidates. It is imperative that the political parties devise new strategies to appeal to the very diverse Latino electorate. They should also be determined to focus on Latinas as a key group of Latino voters. This post builds on a series of blogs I have written focused on Latinas, including a recent discussion of the partisan gap among Latinos based on gender.

 Christina Bejarano is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas. Her book entitled The Latino Gender Gap in U.S. Politics (2014) was published by Routledge Press.

A Real Cuba Breakthrough Is Tied to Congressional Action


by Brian Alexander

President Obama has announced “a new course on Cuba,” timed to the release of USAID contractor Alan Gross who was imprisoned by the Cuban government since December 2009. Headlines and editorials are suggesting the policy shift is “ushering in a transformational era” and that it “dismantles an artifact of the Cold War”. The president’s new policies and assertion that decades of isolation are “a failed approach,” coupled with the unprecedented phone call between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, suggests a historic shift in tone and possibly a new direction in US-Cuba relations.

However, before we all line up to buy vacation condos in Cuba, the President’s move only partially lifts U.S. sanctions, promises shifts in diplomatic relations and bilateral cooperation, eases only some commercial and travel restrictions, and renews the U.S. commitment to supporting democracy in Cuba. Most important, despite enthusiastic claims that “sanctions are coming to an end,” U.S. law prohibits the president from lifting the embargo. The 1996 Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act (a.k.a. “Helms-Burton” after its sponsors), passed in the wake of the Cuban shoot down of two U.S.-based Brothers to the Rescue airplanes, codified the executive orders that comprised the majority of the embargo and added additional requirements that Cuba must meet for the embargo to end.

While the executive branch still has substantial flexibility, a real end to U.S. isolation of Cuba can only come with Congressional action. And that’s not likely to happen. Given congressional gridlock, divided government, and the fact that embargo supporters occupy key positions in each chamber, it is unlikely that the Republican-lead Congress is likely to follow the president’s lead. Moreover, an ambitious policy proposal, such as ending the decades-old embargo, late in the president’s second term and in the context of divided government is an uphill battle. Already, key House and Senate members of the GOP are denouncing the president’s move. Some may point to the shifting landscape of domestic politics on Cuba among Cuban-Americans and the general public and to evidence of a bipartisan majority in Congress for easing Cuba sanctions. But these facts are not lost on Congressional embargo supporters who will actively try to prevent such votes from occurring. Congressional scholars will detect a context ripe for negative agenda control, based on a combination of majority party leadership and a small number of highly mobilized Representatives and Senators blocking moves to end the embargo.

What’s more, there is a still a long way between a handshake and a phone call and a substantive breakthrough on key sticking points in US-Cuba relations. Issues such as human rights and confiscated U.S. properties remain priorities for the United States and the Cuban posture regarding Venezuela and North Korea, for example, suggest deep divides between the two countries. For his part, Cuban President Raul Castro statement on the breakthrough contained strong preconditions for greater progress, including a call for a full end to “el bloqueo” (the blockade), as the embargo is known in Cuba. If the recent developments suggest a ray of sunshine in the U.S.-Cuba relationship, it is peeking through a sky full of grey clouds.

Moreover, given the history of Cuban responses to US ovations toward Cuba, optimists should be wary that the Cuban government might do something provocative. For example, the Mariel boatlift in 1980, the Brothers to the Rescue shoot-down in 1996, the Havana Spring dissident roundup in 2003, and even the jailing of Alan Gross in 2009 all followed moves in the United States toward rapprochement. Will Cuba bite again? If so, Congress will likely be even more intransigent and President Obama, having extended his hand, would not be the first American leader to regret his gesture.

Brian Alexander is a doctoral candidate in political science at George Mason University.  His research is on Congress, parties, and interest groups and his dissertation looks at the utilization of conference committees.  Brian’s professional experience includes work in foreign policy non-profits, political consulting, and federal agencies. His publications include works on reform of the intelligence community and nuclear nonproliferation.

Loretta Lynch: Shock Absorber for the Administration

by Nancy Kassop

No baggage, easy ride to a quick and uncontroversial confirmation – these were some of the initial assumptions underlying President Obama’s November 8th announcement of the nomination of Loretta Lynch as his choice to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. As the current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lynch has been confirmed by the Senate – twice! (appointed in 2000 under Clinton and in 2010 under Obama) and unanimously – for her present position. Moreover, she asked the incoming George W. Bush administration in 2001 if she could remain in the position, indicating her willingness to serve under a Republican president, although Bush did not reappoint her.

Within five days of Obama’s nomination of her as Attorney General, however, Republicans began to lay out the areas of inquiry for her confirmation hearings, and it became clear that there would be a central focus on the scope of executive power.

Now, less than two weeks after her nomination, the stakes have heightened even more dramatically, as a result of Republican fury over the president’s November 20th announcement of his executive actions on immigration. Some Republican senators, such as Raul Labrador (R-ID), are calling not merely for questioning Lynch about her positions on the constitutionality and legality of the president’s new actions, but suggesting, instead, that her confirmation hearings be postponed indefinitely, as one possible avenue of retaliation against the president: in essence, they would hold her nomination hostage until some accord could be reached with the president on immigration. Labrador suggested in an NPR interview that incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “should say, first thing tomorrow morning, that he will not allow any appointments that this administration has made. So, there will be no hearings on the new attorney general… There will be no hearing on anything this president wants and that he needs.”

There was little doubt that Republican senators would scrutinize Lynch’s legal opinions intensely at the hearings as to whether she believed that the president had such authority. As early as the day of her nomination, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) released a joint statement that “Loretta Lynch deserves the opportunity to demonstrate… whether or not she believes the president’s executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal.”

So, there is no surprise that Lynch’s hearings will provide the exquisite vehicle for the president’s opponents to vent their rage at him, to question her on her position on the use of executive authority in a whole variety of contexts, and to position her as their personal punching bag for all of the deep disdain they felt towards her predecessor and the policies he championed and oversaw. From what might have been a relatively smooth and speedy confirmation process, the tables have turned to suggest that the process may be, at worst, delayed, and, at best, fraught with razor-sharp tensions for a candidate whose professional career has been described as one marked by “independence, integrity and fairness.” As Politico summed it up, the confirmation hearings may be used “as a proxy war over presidential power rather than a debate over Lynch’s qualifications.”  It quoted a Senate Republican aide saying “Don’t underestimate the capacity for that to become a major battle front.”

Confirmability was, indeed, one of the primary objectives for Obama in this selection: all of the other candidates on the short list for this nomination had some feature that seemed all too likely to raise its ugly head as an obstacle to confirmation. Kathryn Ruemmler, the former White House Counsel and Obama’s personal preference for this position, given the closeness of the working relationship between a counsel and a president and her past work on every high-profile legal policy of the administration, was much too risky: one would think that presidents might learn from their predecessors (but, apparently not) that nominating a former White House staff member to a cabinet position will undoubtedly result in uncomfortable tussles with the Senate Judiciary Committee over demands for White House documents from the nominee’s work there that he or she is bound to resist under predictable claims of executive privilege. The administration was probably relieved, though disappointed at the same time, when Ruemmler chose in late October to take her name out of the running.

The other two names floated as likely contenders, Donald Verrilli, the current solicitor general, and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, had obvious drawbacks: Verrilli has been the face of the administration when defending its positions in cases before the Supreme Court, especially, on the Affordable Care Act and on marriage equality, and Perez endured a rough and lengthy confirmation hearing for his present position: Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) characterized him as “a committed ideologue who appears willing, quite frankly, to say or do anything to achieve his ideological ends.”

Once it became clear that Ruemmler was out of the running, Lynch’s star began to rise. She was always viewed as having a solid, professional resume and as someone who was well-respected, even by Republicans (former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani told Politico “If I were in the Senate, I would confirm her…she is so much better than what they [the next Republican Senate] thought they were going to get.”. Not insignificant is the “added value” she would bring, as an African-American woman who could continue Holder’s personal outreach to minority communities in ways that have eluded the president.

Lynch has had a close relationship with Holder, stretching back to when she was first appointed to the U.S. Attorney position at the end of the Clinton administration and she reported directly to Holder, the then-sitting Deputy Attorney General, and more recently, as a member and, then, chair of Holder’s 20-member Advisory Committee, the group that advises the attorney general on policy. Thus, she is no stranger to her predecessor, has worked intimately with him on the policies that he and the department implemented, and she would presumably carry on much of the Holder agenda (strong civil rights enforcement, criminal justice reform, litigation against voter ID laws and against dilution of Voting Rights Act protections, commitment to terrorism trials in federal civilian courts, and refusal to defend DOMA in federal cases). But she would also be a much-needed “fresh face” for the last two years of an administration that has all too often elevated from within its own tight circle.

For the president’s critics, immigration will be front and center in their questioning of Lynch, but it will be accompanied by aggressive probing into other highly politicized matters left over from the Holder era, such as the Justice Department’s mishandling of the gun trafficking operation by ATF agents, known as Fast and Furious, that prompted the House to cite Holder for contempt in June 2012, and for which previously held documents have just started to be released; inquiries as to why the department failed to pursue the IRS/Tea Party scandal and, also, failed to hold accountable many of the institutions responsible for the financial crisis; and controversy over the department’s challenges to voter ID laws.

Added to all of these will also be the long-simmering issue over the administration’s approach to the detention and trial of terror suspects, a continuing source of conflict where Holder has been a high-profile defender of the use of federal civilian criminal courts for such trials, and Lynch’s own office has prosecuted more terrorism cases in federal courts than any other district in the country.

There may be an ultimate showdown at the point when the president will need to decide whether to sign the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, if it continues to contain, as have NDAAs in previous years, prohibitions on bringing Guantanamo prisoners to mainland U.S. for detention or trials. A possible scenario could be either a presidential veto of the defense bill or signing it but appending a signing statement, followed by an executive order to close Guantanamo.

Given the president’s visible impatience with Congress and his recognition that executive action will be the only way he may be able to accomplish the goals he wishes to complete before leaving office, one can assume he will “go for broke” and forge ahead.

The fight over whether the president had authority to use executive actions on immigration reform might pale in comparison to a parallel contest over his authority to close Guantanamo. Lynch will be in the hot seat on all of these issues: satisfying the president’s critics, if and when given the chance, will require a virtuoso performance.

Nancy Kassop is professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at SUNY New Paltz. She writes on issues at the intersection of law and politics. Her most recent articles are “Executive Branch Legal Analysis for National Security Policy: Who Controls Access to Legal Memos?” Presidential Studies Quarterly (Vol. 44:2), June 2014; and “Pro: Resolved, Presidents Have Usurped the War Power that Rightfully Belongs to Congress,” in Richard Ellis and Michael Nelson, eds., Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the American Presidency, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage/CQ Press, 2014)

Fear and Fantasy in Ferguson

by Joseph Lowndes

There are many things that bear examining in the police killing of Michael Brown and its aftermath: the local police force, the media, the legal system. But action in each of these diverse institutional settings is tied together by one overwhelming phenomenon – white fear of black violence. Yet this fear has, since before the founding, played an important, even central role in an American political culture that has white supremacy at its core. We cannot get to any adequate understanding of the events surrounding Michael Brown’s death without this acknowledgement.

In a nation founded on ideals of freedom and equality on the one hand, and slavery and genocide on the other, white aggression toward people of color has always required powerful moral justification. At one level, this justification is only made possible insofar as those who are victims of state aggression can be made to seem the aggressors. More than that, these victims must be made into figures of annihilating destruction.

This transformation of people of color into fearsome specter is at the heart of what the late political theorist Michael Rogin called countersubversion – a political tradition in the United States that emerges repeatedly in racial conflict. As he put it, “The countersubversive needs monsters to give shape to his anxieties and to permit him to indulge his forbidden desires. Demonization allows the countersubversive, in the name of battling the subversive, to imitate his enemy.”

We tend to think of anxiety and fear as personal emotional states. Yet intense, animating dread of black aggression describes not merely the psychological profile of the individual bigot or marginal white supremacist group.   It is built into the cultural logic of law enforcement and legal norms, as well as shared social beliefs in white American society.

Consider the stark images from the early protests following the shooting: local police in Kevlar helmets, assault-friendly gas masks, woodland Marine Pattern utility trousers, tactical body armor, and gas masks drawing automatic weapons on a lone black teen with hands raised. Or armored personnel carriers rolling through neighborhoods, mounted high-powered rifles with local residents in their sights. The fact that the US military sold this equipment, used in Afghanistan in Iraq, to local police forces across the nation only underscores the fear of loss of control over potentially dangerous local populations in an era when the imperatives of law enforcement are so closely tied to racial narratives of crime and disorder. It also links racial domination at home to empire-building abroad.

And there is Wilson’s own testimony to the grand jury. First, this police officer, who stands at six feet four inches, describes Brown (who was 6’ 4”) in superhuman dimensions. “And when I grabbed him,” Wilson claims “the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.” Wilson becomes an innocent child overpowered by a giant adult, instead of an armed adult who in fact killed a child.

Wilson then goes on to describe Brown’s “intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon.” “At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him.” Wilson goes on, “and the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.” Brown has a face of a devil and is as unstoppable as a zombie.

The grand jury, made up of nine whites and three African Americans, reached their decision in an institutional context shaped by racial logic linking race, crime, violence and the authority of the police. Rarely do such bodies choose to indict the latter. All anyone knows for certain is that an unarmed Brown was slain by Wilson from 153 feet away. What should be noted here though is the language of demonization, of monstrosity in the testimony of Wilson. His account is not one merely of facts, but of powerful fantasy. “The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact and fiction,” said Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch. Indeed, Wilson’s successful testimony seems to have done just the opposite.

“Mama, see the Negro! I’m frightened!” went the cry from a white child upon seeing the black psychoanalyst and social theorist Frantz Fanon on a train. Fanon recounts this moment where his blackness is named as violence beyond his power to shape it. He knew that he was trapped in what he called a “historico-racial schema” woven by a white society “out of a thousand details, anecdotes, stories.” In much the same way for Michael Brown in life for Wilson, and then in death for the grand jurors, frightening violence was already present in his blackness.

It is this monstrous black violence, already present before the fact – in the killing of Mike Brown, in the militarized forces on the streets of Ferguson, in Wilson’s grand jury testimony, in Missouri governor Jay Nixon’s declaration a statewide state of emergency more than a week before the Grand Jury gave its verdict, and finally in cable news lamentations not of black pain and sorrow, but of property destruction in the wake of the non-indictment.

The non-indictment of Wilson has resulted in an enormous wave of upheaval on the streets of Ferguson and now across the nation. This tumult should be celebrated, not feared. As the great republican thinker Niccolò Machiavelli said about the rioters of ancient Rome, its participants are guardians of liberty. Right now they provide the only appropriate response to the very real brutality of state violence.

Joseph Lowndes is an associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon.
His research areas include race, populism, culture, and American political development. He is the author of From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism ( Yale University Press 2008)

Commemorating a Massacre: Queries for Political Scientists

by Nancy D. Wadsworth

As we approach another Thanksgiving, people interested in politics and history in the American West may be thinking about November 29th, a date that lives in infamy in the annals of U.S. governance, military history, and the long struggle of Native people in the face of an expansionist settler state. On that cold day 150 years ago, federalized regiments led by Colonel John Chivington slaughtered more than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho, in an event that came to be known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

This massacre and the understudied role of a political official named Dr. John Evans in the events preceding it have been the subjects of recent reports by Northwestern University and the University of Denver (DU). (Evans founded both institutions.) I chaired the interdisciplinary committee that produced DU’s report and a set of recommendations based on it. As a result of that eighteen-month crash-course in settler-colonial and Native American history, in which we worked with both descendants and historians of the massacre, I have been contemplating why this and related subjects are so understudied in my home discipline of political science.

In more fully describing the massacre, I’ll offer some queries to contemplate.

In late-September 1864, the most prominent peace chiefs in the eastern plains region of Colorado had come to Camp Weld in Denver to council with John Evans, the territorial governor and ex officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The chiefs were responding to Evans’s call for “peaceful Indians”—those not fighting the waves of settlers increasingly trespassing Native people’s legal land rights in the rush for gold—to report to territorial authorities and surrender resistance. In an August proclamation Evans had endorsed all citizens to kill and effectively pillage from “hostile Indians,” though he gave no criteria for distinguishing “hostiles” from “friendlies.” But at the Camp Weld council, Evans told the peace chiefs he could not negotiate, as the territory’s affairs were now in the hands of the military. (This was a curious claim, given Evans’s mandate as superintendent to negotiate peace treaties with precisely these tribes, and the fact that Evans himself had sought the imposition of martial law.) He directed the Indians report to Ft. Lyon, a military outpost in southeastern Colorado, suggesting their people would be safe there until military officials could broker a treaty. About 750 individuals eventually reported to the fort and were sent to camp at a bend in Sand Creek about 30 miles away, where they could hunt for provisions to sustain them.

Query #1: How do political scientists understand the ménage a trois of U.S. political, military, and legal power as it was imposed on the vast milieu of Native societies the United States confronted in the nineteenth century period of expansionist institution-building? Why do we have strong studies in American Political Development about institution building and the Civil War, but so little on the “Indian Wars” and other removal strategies upon which the federal government depended for its expansionist mission? Kevin Bruyneel and Paul Frymer have done excellent work on aspects of this; where are the rest?

Two months after the September meeting, the government that had offered the tribes protection mowed them down without mercy. Most of the murdered were women, children, and the elderly, but also at least seventeen prominent peace chiefs. (Query #2: Why has political science not seen fit to study the political organization, strategies, and leadership of Indian nations in the post-revolutionary period—or at all? Is there a reason we leave these studies to historians, anthropologists, or comparativists working in non-U.S. contexts?) The first of the chiefs shot down was the seventy-five-year-old White Antelope, a respected leader who had received a peace medal in a visit to Washington D.C. in 1851. Soldiers immediately set upon him in death, stripping him and cutting off parts of his body, which would be later paraded around Denver in frenzied celebrations. Countless others, including pregnant women, toddlers, and babies, underwent similar unspeakable atrocities.

Governor Evans was in the East Coast by the time it happened, but he had single-handedly lobbied for the 3rd Regiment of federalized, 100-day volunteers that Chivington used to attack the encampment, and which committed the vast majority of the atrocities. Evans had raised the unit explicitly to “kill Indians,” and he had made a series of decisions in late-1863 and 1864, which both university committees find escalated the prospects for war and left Cheyennes and Arapahos in an impossible situation, caught between an 1861 treaty that did not protect them and a settler society ready to kill them off if necessary.

Brutal and illegal massacres of Native people were not uncommon in the history of U.S. settler colonialism, but the Sand Creek Massacre was the Abu Ghraib scandal of its time. It was distinctive in several respects. Two military commanders, who had ordered their companies to stand down when they understood the situation, wrote their commanding officer, describing the massacre in excruciating detail. Two congressional committees and a military commission conducted investigations, each declaring the attack a massacre and condemning the decisions and actions of officials involved with it. Although no individual was ever criminally prosecuted (Chivington was protected by virtue of his military commission having expired), Evans was forced to resign as a result of recommendations from the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War. Two years later, in The Treaty of Little Arkansas, the U.S. government repudiated the massacre and promised land and monetary reparations to survivors and descendants for the damage done. Consistent with the United States’ record on Indian treaties, those debts were never paid. Finally, this is the sole attack against Native people in our boundaries that the U.S. government recognizes as a massacre.

Queries 3-5: How did lax or non-existent systems of accountability enable a democratic state to execute genocidal policies in full view of the public? What can the nineteenth century teach us about the twenty-first in this respect? How do settler societies like ours cope with—or suppress—collective memory when it comes to Native people?

It’s worth remembering that political science as a codified discipline rose with the rest of the nineteenth century empiricist missions; our very epistemologies are tethered to a worldview that sees, counts, and values fairly narrowly defined concepts of “the political.” Part of the social science enterprise, early political science pursued agendas largely blind to or devaluing of human communities figured as outside the modern state. Even the older field of political theory has long depended on heuristic devices such as the “state of nature” that ignore the actual social structures and political arrangements of indigenous societies. Critiques of such practices by Will Kymlicka and others are fairly recent. It would seem that the politics of modern foundings, and the legal, institutional, and cultural power tools settler societies in particular have wielded in their service, should be major field areas in political science. So, final query: Why are these subjects so sparsely studied?

In their reports, both university committees agree that Evans abrogated his duties as Superintendent of Indian Affairs and made dangerous leadership decisions as governor that put the tribes in harm’s way. These report are not trials of individuals conducted in absentia. They are records of institutions trying to comprehend the role of their forefathers in the founding violence—and amnesia—that were standard tools in the arsenal of American progress. As the 150th anniversary draws year and the Arapaho and Cheyenne prepare for their annual Healing Run in remembrance, these studies should give political scientists much to ponder.

Nancy D. Wadsworth is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Denver. She is the author of Ambivalent Miracles: Evangelicals and the Politics of Racial Healing, and co-editor, with Robin Dale Jacobson of Faith and Race in American Political Life. She recently wrote about teaching about settler colonialism and indigenous politics in political science in PS: Political Science & Politics.

NEW scholarship: “The next generation? A reexamination of religious influence on Mexican- American attitudes toward same-sex marriage.”


New scholarship from Neilan Chaturvedi published this month in the new WPSA journal Politics, Groups, and Identities, finds “that second and third-generation Mexican-Americans look more like  mainstream’  Americans than their immigrant predecessors” (600). In particular, Chaturvedi looks at attitudes among Mexican Americans toward same sex marriage.

neilan 1

Chaturvedi considers the role of church attendance, devotion, and age on attitudes toward same sex marriage, and finds third generation Mexican Americans to be more accepting of same sex marriage. He discusses the implications of his findings; check out the full article here.



The Gendered Lens of Power: Valerie Jarrett and Her Critics


Lilly J. Goren

Valerie Jarrett has been the subject of quite a few column inches since the midterm elections. Much of the commentary is easily broken down into two mostly opposing camps: those who are calling for her ouster from the White House, or at least a demotion from the policy realm and the daily work of the West Wing; and those who are defending Jarrett from what they say are sexist and gender-based attacks. Both sides have some merit. Jarrett has a broad and loosely defined portfolio in the Obama White House and she also seems to have unfettered access to the president and first lady. At the same time, she is characterized not as “Obama’s brain” but as the “Obama whisperer” or “the Night Stalker.” The images that are run alongside the more critical articles don’t imply her power so much as suggest insidiousness.

The initial volley in this latest round came from Politico Magazine, where Carol Felsenthal published a lengthy assessment of the need to “Fire Valerie Jarrett” – as the article was titled. Felsenthal includes many of the long-standing critiques of Jarrett, going all the way back to the beginning of the Obama Administration in 2009. Donna Brazile and Jonathan Capehart both responded defending Jarrett, with criticisms as well, but noting that Jarrett was being more clearly targeted because of her gender. At The New Republic, Noam Scheiber published a long piece about Jarrett, calling her “The Obama Whisperer” accompanied by a stylized image of a Jarrett-like woman whispering into the president’s ear. Without even delving into the extensively sourced article, the image alone implies clandestine operations, conspiracies, and secrets.

Jarrett’s place in the West Wing is wide-ranging and therefore nebulous—thus making it easier to criticize her because her responsibilities are harder to distinguish and easier for those with clearer responsibilities to argue that she is more destructive than constructive. Her connection to the Obamas is long established and extensive, and in many ways, she contributed to Obama’s positioning for his presidential run. In this regard, her connection to the Obamas is much like Karl Rove’s relationship to George and Laura Bush. Rove was famously dubbed “Bush’s brain;” Jarrett has never been cast in a similar light, though she is hardly lacking intellect, training, or essential experience. In many ways, she has more substantive policy experience than Rove did before he started working for the Bushes, though Rove had more extensive campaign experience. Both Karen Hughes and Harriet Miers have occupied similar advisory positions in regard to President George W. Bush, and some of the same kinds of critiques came at Miers in particular – though again, her position in the White House was generally more clearly defined. Jarrett’s relationship to President Obama was not grounded, as in the case of Rove and Hughes, in contributing to campaign strategy. But if Rove was considered to be “Bush’s brain” in that he was a kind of extension of Bush himself and a reflection back of Bush, Jarrett is in a very similar position. So how come Jarrett has not been considered “Barack’s brain” in the same way? Being dubbed “the Night Stalker” is much more undermining, casting doubts on Jarrett’s integrity.

Many of the criticisms directed at Jarrett over the years are those heard in every administration, especially in regard to someone who has significant access to the president. And there are lots of folks (supporters of the President and detractors alike) who think that whatever Jarrett is doing or has done is wrong and that she needs to go. At the same time, when the second sentence of Felsenthal’s article is about pushing Jarrett to the East Wing so she can “hang out with Michelle Obama and the White House social secretary” all the critiques that follow will be seen through a gendered lens—in a kind of reversal of Lady Macbeth’s famous line wanting to be “unsexed,” Jarrett has been “gendered”—perhaps not overtly in terms of her actions, but the implication is that the place where she can “do the least damage” is hanging out with the social secretary or becoming a librarian (of Obama’s Presidential Library). Brazile and Capehart push back against this line of criticism, though not by taking on the images or the implications. Furthermore, neither defense gets at the more insidious nature of the critique, namely that Jarrett operates covertly, clandestinely, and perhaps inappropriately. Jarrett’s critics have long cast her as a kind of Iago; she is portrayed as scary and vengeful even as she quietly whispers in the ear of the president. The externally constructed impression of Jarrett, subtly portrayed but starkly at odds with the consumed image of Karl Rove, is that she embodies both insidious and gendered power and the anxiety thereof. This, again, reinforces the problematic that women face in positions of power—how women exercise power at the very highest levels remains controversial and suspect, even if they are deserving of criticism, it comes through a gendered lens.