Immigration is not a new issue in the United States. Every half century, there is a new perceived foreign threat to our status quo. From the natives (that’s a whole other discussion regarding the definition of ‘foreign’), to the African slaves, Chinese, Italians, Irish… the list goes on. The United States has an ugly history of xenophobia. Sadly, it never seems to truly go away in some portions of the country, with ethnic slurs still muttered either intentionally or unintentionally insulting. I eagerly await more news on the “immigration reform” that the President and Congress is supposedly coming up with, especially regarding these new threats.  Hopefully this chapter in our history will close soon, but I know better than to expect that this will be the last immigration issue we hear about.  Look for a future post regarding a brief overview of our history of ugly immigration policy and some teaching tips very soon.  I thought I’d post this political cartoon from 1879 in advance just as a bit of a teaser 😉 (click on the picture to make it bigger so you can read the text)


I won’t touch this election with a 10 foot pole

So I’m not even close to being a political historian. I am a social historian at best, a cultural historian secondary with a few other opinions thrown in, but by no means do I exactly study politics. My interest in this current election goes just as far as the average voter, though I did look up the local candidates prior to voting via absentee ballot. However, my friends, who are mostly biologists or physics people (they just followed me home, I swear!), do not understand why I cannot answer specific questions about each and every piece of the election process, prior candidates and prior elections. Its frustrating and enlightening. Please allow me to demonstrate via SomeEcards.

With the advent of social media, such as blogs like this, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and a zillion other things I will never get a grasp of, more people are able to reach a broader audience for both relevant and completely irrelevant opinions and “facts” on the candidates. I’ve been watching the arguments on Facebook and the varying opinions that just amaze me. I have successfully kept out of the arguments even though many attempts have been made to pull me in. To what extent are these rants and raves and sometimes blatantly wrong “facts” swaying potential voters? I have no idea. My hope is that people are intelligent enough to do their own research. However, everyone is entitled to their opinion and now with the social media outlets:

On the other hand, enabling people to post to Facebook and Twitter and all these electronic outlets and interact with others could potentially be dragging in those who would not ever be involved in a political conversation or willing to vote. This engagement would hopefully be making them think more in depth about who they’re going to vote for or why they would vote for them. And then they share their thought process on Facebook/Twitter… repeatedly…

Now these presidential debates… I watch them to keep up with the news, but quite honestly, I’d rather do without them. At this point, they feed my theory that elections are becoming the new sitcom. What a better way to get the average person involved right?! Make it entertaining for them to watch, throw in a few jokes, polarize the candidates so much and make sure you have someone of each demographic (Mormon, anti-abortion, anti-women’s reproductive rights, African American, Rockstar mentality, wealthy, etc) so you don’t leave out anyone that you can piss off. As a result of some of this action, I have heard people say that they don’t really care who wins as long as its not (insert name here). So in effect, they’re voting against someone rather than for a candidate that they really feel strongly about.

Mudslinging and angry retorts have gone back and forth against each other in every election since the beginning of elections. (For a fun read about past candidate shenanigans, I recommend reading J. Cummins Anything for a Vote.) Yet you hear constantly about how this is the dirtiest election in the history of the United States (no it’s not) and about how the candidates are the most polarizing in our history (no they’re not) and how health care and immigration is going to pull this nation apart (see New Deal and early twentieth century immigration policies- so no they’re not). I love the discussions about how great this depression is and how its comparable to The Great Depression, which it may be. As a historian I can tell you that to say that definitively right at this moment is next to impossible. That is something that can only be discerned through study post-depression. Yes, right now its rough, but is it as bad as it was in the 1930s? Certainly our true unemployment rate is not 1/3 of the country. Let’s talk about this again in a few years. However, look back through history. Depressions are common place. Every 100 years or so, the nation goes through a major economic depression. Every ten to twenty years we have a minor depression. Its the natural ebb and flow of market economy. I don’t mean to downplay this by any means so please do not take my words to heart, but look at it from a broader concept that a narrow view of the immediate moment. I can say this to you for certain, based on our history it will get better but there will also be another depression in our future. Watch your personal spending and create a savings account if you can.

Another thing I find interesting is exactly how much power that people perceive the president has exactly. Don’t get me wrong, he certainly has a significant amount of power, but the power truly lies with the Senate and House of Representatives. “The amount of presidential influence on the legislative process is often exaggerated by extravagantly choreographed bill-signing ceremonies. Although the Congress is generally responsible for almost all of the hard work on the bills it passes, it is the President that is generally in the spotlight, claiming credit for the legislation he signs.” ( It is equally important who you vote into the Senate and the House of Representatives as it is who you vote into Presidency. People may argue with me on this point, but you cannot deny the constitutional power they have over the law of the land. So what the candidates are promising and the fabulous things they are saying to us through these debates, political ads, and other media outlets may or may not happen and it may or may not be their fault.

The moral of my story is that yes, my friends, I do have many opinions on the election as a historian and no they are not “you should vote Obama” or “you should vote Romney” because there are so many other factors that go into running this nation. My recommendation to you for this election and all future elections is to look at the broader picture of the history of our nation and foreign relations at the moment. Make sure you have a general understanding of what is going on in the world and how we could impact that. The New York Times, Time magazine, and The Economist are an excellent place to start. If you can’t do that, then research the backgrounds of people who you are voting into office, not just for the presidency but for every single office. From Top Dog to Soil and Conservation Representative. There’s a reason why you’re voting for them and it truly is a privilege to vote.  There are many other things about this election in particular, such as the voter fraud issue (is it myth or truth?), and elections in general but I think those could be their own blog.  So maybe one day I will sit down and write those blogs.  Until then…

How ever you decide to vote, please vote responsibly.

For more information on elections:

League of Women Voters

President Obama’s Election website

Governor Romney’s website

You can also Google local elections. Go to and search “(local county name here), (state) elections 2012” and information should come up. If you have any questions or would like more help finding information on local officials, please let me know and I’d be more than happy to help you.

And no I will not tell you how I voted.