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one-house bill

A one-house bill is introduced by a legislator for the purpose of grandstanding or to demonstrate their effort to fulfill political promises without the ability to actually pass the bill into law.

One-house bills are often introduced to congress by members of the minority party, even when they do not have the support to pass these bills in the other legislative chamber.

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

An “open primary” is an 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 or jungle 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

october surprise

An October surprise is a news event which takes place shortly before a closely-watched election and which may influence the election’s outcome.

Usually, the term in reference to a presidential election, although it can be applied to any election.

Merriam Webster notes that October surprise wasn’t always a political term. In the early 20th century, it referred to the annual autumn sales held by major department stores. Around 1980, people started using October surprise in its modern political sense.

An October surprise can take many different forms. A natural disaster, an economic downturn, or even a war can all impact elections, especially if they take place just before people go to the polls. All of those count as an October surprise. However, the term is more commonly used for deliberately planned news events. Last-minute revelations about a candidate’s personal life or their finances can also constitute an October surprise.

In 2000, George W Bush was running for president against Al Gore. The two were in a close race, but Bush appeared to have pulled ahead. Then in early November, the news broke that Bush had been arrested and charged with a DUI in Maine back in 1976. The news shook Bush’s support. Karl Rove, Bush’s chief strategist, later said that if the DUI news had never become public, Bush would have won the popular vote, eliminating the need for a recount.

In October 2004, when Bush was running for re-election, Osama bin Laden released a video that boosted the president’s position in the polls. The video referred to the September 11 attacks and called President Bush a dictator, accusing him of repressing civil liberties by means of the Patriot Act. The video put national security back at the forefront of public discussion and likely inflated support for the president.

Four years later, in 2008, John McCain was running for president against Barack Obama. In October, the stock market crashed, unemployment reached an all-time high, and the global economy seemed to be on the point of collapse. The market crash was widely credited with helping Obama win the election.

The most famous October surprise of them all, however, may be one which never actually took place. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was running for president against the incumbent, Democrat Jimmy Carter. The Reagan campaign was reportedly afraid that Carter would orchestrate a last-minute deal to free the American hostages that had been held in Iran since 1979. Reagan’s staffers feared that if the hostages were released, Carter would get a huge bump in the polls.

In the event, though, Iran waited to free the hostages until just after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president. Since then, theories have abounded as to what happened. Many Democrats believe that Reagan himself made a deal with Iran, asking them not to liberate the hostages until after he won the election. What’s clear is that, in the absence of an October surprise, Reagan was able to sweep to victory.

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