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obstructionism

The act of deliberately stalling, delaying, or preventing legislation from being passed. It has a negative connotation, as politicians do not want to be seen as preventing progress.

Obstructionist politicians are typically either a a party with control of one branch or house of a legislature, or part of a minority party with enough of a plurality to prevent legislation (like through a filibuster)

Obstructionism is often a useful tool for an opposition party. Politico: “Still, for the most part, obstructionism worked. Americans always tell pollsters they want politicians to work together, but as Washington Democrats decide how to approach the Trump era from the minority, they will be keenly aware that the Republican Party’s decision to throw sand in the gears of government throughout the Obama era helped the Republican Party wrest unified control of that government.”

old bull

An “old bull” is a powerful and influential Member of Congress.

Old bulls are typically senior members who have worked their way into positions of power through decades in Congress.

open convention

A party convention in which delegates are able to vote for the candidate of their choice, and are not tied to the results of primaries or caucuses.

Open conventions were the norm until about 1968. The Democratic Party’s delegates were never tied to primary votes before then, and could choose who they wanted (the Republican Party was tied to primaries much earlier). This led to many cases where candidates would forego primaries and focus on delegates instead.

According to Reuters, “the 1968 election, when Hubert Humphrey, who eschewed the primaries in favor of courting officials who controlled the delegates, lost to Republican nominee Richard Nixon, led to reforms that essentially gave control of the nominating process to the popular vote. A number of states decided the easiest way to comply with the new rules would be to hold primaries.”

Today, open conventions only happen when no candidate takes a majority of the delegates. The last open convention was in 1976, when neither Ronald Reagan or Gerald Ford was able to secure a majority of GOP delegates. The delegates were then free to choose a candidate without being tied to a vote.

off the record

A term used in journalism meaning that the information given to the reporter cannot be attributed to the person saying it. Off the record quotes are often used to protect sources who are giving information that could get them in trouble.

The term off the record has picked up many misconceptions. To be off the record, the journalist must agree to it. A person cannot declare himself off the record after statements are made and hope his statements will not be reported. If the source does not want the quote to be reported, with attribution or without, they must agree to it with the reporter beforehand.

Off the record quotes are used often in politics, typically to protect anonymous sources speaking out, and protecting them from being fired or silenced by politicians.

The Guardian: “Let’s face it, down the years we have been here many, many times. People say things to journalists, possibly in a light-hearted fashion, that end up in print. Inevitably, “official” denial follows. They may also fail to grasp what we mean by ‘off the record.’ For journalists, it simply means that it is reportable as long as the source is not identified.”

open primary

A primary election that allows voters to select candidates on one party’s ballot without declaring their own party affiliation.

It’s not to be confused with a blanket primary, in which all candidates appear on the same ballot and the two highest voted candidates proceed to the runoff, regardless of party affiliation.

one-minute speeches

Also called, “one minutes”, a speech typically given at the beginning of the day by a House member on a chosen topic. One minutes can also be scheduled at the end of legislative business. It is at the discretion of the Speaker how much time will be allotted for the speeches. Although they are not a rule of the House, one minutes have emerged as a “unanimous consent practice” of the chamber.

One-minute speeches can be used for promoting partisan positions and launching attacks. According to Kathryn Pearson of MinnPost.com, one minute attack speeches are becoming routine (See,”One-minute Attack Speeches Becoming Routine in U.S. House“): “…party leaders have taken an active role in coordinating one-minutes so that they consist of attacks on the other party or a defense of one’s own party… Indeed, the “Republican Theme Team” and the “Democratic Message Group” recruit members to deliver one-minutes to reinforce the party’s daily message”.

As noted in CRS Report, One Minute Speeches: Current Practices, “the usual position of one minutes at the start of day means they can be covered by broadcast news organizations in time for evening news programs …. Some Representatives have made one-minute speeches a regular part of their media and communication strategy.”

The tendency to use one minutes for attack and promotion has prompted calls for reform or complete elimination of the privilege.

October surprise

A news event late in a political campaign that has the potential to influence the outcome of an election.

Because Election Day is typically held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, surprise events that take place in October can have the potential change the minds of prospective voters.

The term came first into use just after the 1972 presidential election, when the United States was in negotiations to end the domestically-divisive Vietnam War. Twelve days before Election Day, on October 26, 1972, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger appeared at a White House press conference and announced, “We believe that peace is at hand.” Though Nixon was widely considered the favorite for re-election over challenger George McGovern, the news proved beneficial to Nixon as he went on to win every state except Massachusetts in the election.

However, according to the New York Observer, the “term ‘October surprise’ is most famously associated with the 1980 campaign, when Republicans spent the fall worrying that Jimmy Carter would engineer a last-minute deal to free the American hostages who had been held in Iran since the previous year. Carter and Ronald Reagan were locked in a close race, but an awful economy and flagging national confidence made the president supremely vulnerable.”

“Reagan’s campaign was particularly worried because there had already been two instances in the ’80 campaign cycle when news out of Iran had caused Carter’s anemic popularity to (briefly) soar: When the hostages were seized in late 1979 and again when he authorized a bold but unsuccessful rescue mission a few months later. In those instances, the American public instinctively rallied around its president. This was no small factor in Carter’s ability to beat back Senator Ted Kennedy’s Democratic primary challenge. The release of the hostages, Reagan’s forces knew, would almost certainly guarantee Carter’s reelection.”

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