January 7th, 2017

A Song of Ice and Fire….

I stole this title from the Game of Thrones epic HBO show and George R. R. Martin book. Not because I’ve read the book, but I have watched the show.  It’s more because I have a couple of days before my classes start and my daughter is singing show tunes, I’m reading for class and the breaks are filled with the binge watching of Downton Abbey from the beginning and Caroline is watching “Game of Thrones” for the first time.  Oh, and there’s snow and ice outside, so the phrase seemed appropriate.

All last semester I felt I wasn’t reading the right way for these classes.  I’m used to reading for content and getting the big ideas and that’s a part of what you do in grad school.  However, I’m noticing changes as I’m reading for Jamie Carson’s class on the U. S. Presidency. I’m starting to make the cross references to other material and I’m coming up with some of my own ideas.

The study of the American presidency is a tricky one.  From a science standpoint, there are only 44, soon to be 45, people to look at who have been presidents.  Then when you factor in divided parties, wars, public opinion and other factors, the sub groups of the 44 or 45 get very small. One thing I have learned is in quantitative study, “small N” can be a very big problem. So the question I have going into this class is whether studying American presidents is a personality exercise or is it a scientific one?

Also, the rapid change in how presidents communicate directly with the people is a very interesting aspect to research. When Obama went directly to the people through social media, it was groundbreaking. Trump is taking it to the next level because it’s apparent he’s actually sending the social media messages himself and the press is scared of it, even though they love it from a content perspective.

I’m doing all this as we are watching the snow melt and getting ready to go to see “Hidden Figures” at the movies this afternoon.

It is a weekend in America.