Adam Levine | How Political Rhetoric Engages and Demobilizes Citizens


Adam Seth Levine, professor of government from Cornell University, gave his talk “How Political Rhetoric Engages and Demobilizes Citizens”  at the Tower Center- Latino Center for Leadership and Development joint policy forum Oct. 28.

Conventional wisdom about political rhetoric leads people to believe talking about problems increases engagement. Levine argues that political rhetoric is self-undermining. While it leads to increased concern about problems, it also inflames them and decreases political activism.

He used Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign as an example. At the third presidential debate, Trump would not commit to accepting the election results if he loses. He has repeatedly claimed that the election is rigged, and Levine argues that this hurts his campaign.

In his research, Levine found that telling people their voice isn’t being heard, doesn’t make them want to participate. Instead it serves as an anti-Get out the vote effort for Trump.

This theory holds true with other political rhetoric. Talking about economic insecurity in a campaign reduces financial and time donations to causes. “When you tell people they’re poor, they don’t want to spend money on your cause,” Levine said.

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Latino Catholics more likely to vote Democratic than Protestants


Latino Public Policy postdoc Alicia Reyes-Barrientez presented on her dissertation, “Divided by Faith? An Examination of Religious Affiliation as a Determinant of Group Consciousness Among Latinxs” at the Tower Center Oct. 26.

Reyes-Barrientez found that Latinos have historically voted Democratic, with the Democratic Party receiving 58 percent of their vote on average from 1977-2014. The Republican Party has received only 19 percent on average, with the years 2000 and 2004 as an exception when George W. Bush received more than 40 percent of the vote.

According to a Pew Research poll, 55 percent of Latinos in the U.S. identify as Catholic, and 22 percent are Protestants. In her research, Reyes-Barrientez looked at four sub-groups to better understand how religion affects voting habits: evangelical Catholics, mainline Catholics, evangelical Protestants and mainline Protestants, with the evangelicals being more religiously traditional.

While these groups share traditional values that should align them with the Republican Party, such as being pro-life and anti-gay marriage, they vote Democratic because that Party is perceived as what is best for the group. The more connected Latinos feel to each other, the more likely they are to vote Democratic.

This means, Reyes-Barrientez argues, that Catholics, and even more so evangelical Catholics, are most likely to vote Democratic; belonging to the Catholic Church enhances group consciousness and promotes political unity among Latinos.

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Q&A | Life as a Scholar and Athlete


The Tower Center sat down with Tower Scholar A.J. Jeffries to discuss his experience with the Tower Scholars Program and the SMU men’s soccer team. Jeffries is majoring in economics, history and public policy with minors in philosophy and public policy and international affairs. His directed research project is with Hunt Mexico looking at the cross-border electricity trade between the U.S. and Mexico.

You will be the first HCM Tower Scholar to graduate from the Program this December. How will you use the minor in your career?

Tower Scholars PortraitsMy interests are varied, and I hope to indulge as many of them as possible en route to a fulfilling life.  The beauty of the Tower Scholars Program is that no matter what I do, the lessons I take from it will be applicable.  Over the course of the Program I did not learn specific, narrow information like military configurations on the Korean peninsula that bind me to a very small area of policy.  Instead, I learned how to take a problem and analyze it in a number of ways to find solutions that would be viable in different circumstances.  That problem solving, policymaking experience will be vital.

Working with role models like Dr. Victoria Farrar-Myers, former director of the Program, also provided an invaluable experience, as she showed me a model of professionalism that I hope to emulate over the course of my professional life.  Finally, the connections I have made during my time as a Tower Scholar will give me a leg up in many industries, and the bonds I have formed with members of my cohort will make me part of an elite, eight-person class of top professionals across a variety of industries.

What role has being a part of the SMU men’s soccer team played in your college experience?

For me, being a student athlete is not part of the “college experience.”  Really, all it did was limit the college experience.  Instead of spending late nights studying or hanging out with friends, I had to go to bed early and be up for practice every morning.  My schedule was busy enough that many weekend nights were spent at my desk trying to get ahead on homework.  I am not complaining.  Soccer is my favorite thing about almost every day, but the myth of sports participation shaping a “college experience” rings false. Sports are an addendum to the experience, offering knowledge and experiences that the college experience does not encompass.

What skills have you acquired as a competitive athlete that translate into your daily life as a student, and will soon translate into your life as a professional?

Discipline, perseverance, and adaptability.  Discipline tends to be a trait that is frequently challenged in college.  The myriad temptations offered by a college campus are hard to avoid, but as a soccer player I had to choose between having fun in the moment or being able to perform to the best of my abilities on the field the next day.  On the field, discipline can mean not talking back to referees, while in the workforce it can mean not talking back to bosses.

After tearing my ACL five times in the past six years, I have needed a great deal of perseverance to keep playing.  That same perseverance pushed me to keep working on classwork even when I was tired or frustrated, and it will drive me to overcome obstacles in my professional career as well.

Finally, adaptability is key on the soccer field.  Over the course of my soccer career, I have played almost every position on the pitch, each time ready to take on the new challenge.  After I graduate, that willingness to learn new things and the ability to use my skills in new fields will make me successful in any profession I choose.

Is there a specific accomplishment as a student athlete you’re most proud of?

My proudest moment as a student athlete is when people tell me they didn’t realize I was one.  There is an unfortunate, pervasive stereotype about student athletes that we are a bunch of muscle-bound dunces; many people automatically expect less from us.  It brings me enormous joy to defy those stereotypes, so if I have changed one person’s view of student athletes I am very proud of that.

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Tower Chair Josh Rovner | No-fly zones in Syria won’t lead to political settlement

Tower Chair Joshua Rovner was quoted in the Guardian’s article “Why Hillary Clinton’s plans for no-fly zones in Syria could provoke U.S.-Russia conflict” Oct. 25.

Washington has debated no-fly zones in Syria for five years, a tactic Hillary Clinton defended in the third presidential debate.

“I wish this would be the kind of leverage she seems to hope it is, but I don’t see why this would pose a serious threat to Assad or Putin,” Rovner said. “It’s accepting a lot of new costs with very few benefits.”

Read the article here.

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Student Blog — Claire Huitt | China’s Evolving Economy and Society


Claire Huitt interviews Dr. Andrew Walder after his lecture at the Tower Center Sept. 29.

China of the last four decades, with its heavily centralized bureaucracy and its exponential economic growth, is a far cry from the first three decades of the People’s Republic of China, yet the remnants of the Maoist era still greatly affect post-Mao China. Mao’s policies and campaigns such as the Anti-Rightist Movement, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution profoundly influenced China’s development. In his talk at the Tower Center Sept. 29, Dr. Andrew Walder, a prominent sociologist from Stanford University, found that precedents set by the Cultural Revolution have helped further China’s development through political reform.

Four conditions for reform

The delegitimization of Maoism, and Deng Xiaoping’s gradual and experimental economic reform were made possible by four circumstances that necessitated such change: (1) The Cultural Revolution destroyed the bureaucracy of the Party. China had been reduced to a military dictatorship, a disorganized mess, that greatly contrasted the long-established Soviet bureaucracy. (2) China was so backward it was falling behind competitors. (3) Deng Xiaoping was an established authority within the Party because of Mao’s initial support. (4) The extremism of the Cultural Revolution led Mao to denounce the USSR and strengthen China’s relationship with the U.S.

China’s bureaucracy destroyed

Paradoxically, one reason the Chinese Communist Party survived was due to the massive failure of the Cultural Revolution. Walder juxtaposed these circumstances against the conditions of the Soviet Union to show just how different China and Russia were in the 1970s. Russia was industrialized and bureaucratic while China faced starvation and a lack of education. “If asked which communist power would be a modern economic power you would have said Russia; you would have been wrong,” Walder said.

The bureaucracy of the CCP was not rebuilt until after Mao’s death in 1976. The Party was held together only by the military from 1967 to 1973. Education “missed an entire generation” of Chinese youth. Simply put, China was left longing for something new after the trauma of the Cultural Revolution. They had nothing to lose and were therefore open to large-scale reform. Conversely, the Soviet Union rested upon a strong central bureaucracy. For them, political reform was too risky.


The second condition, China’s “backwardness”, also encouraged economic reform. China was a flat line of economic growth in comparison to major powers of the time. Its economy was comparable to that of India, Pakistan or Bangladesh especially during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Market failure created a need for a “second economy.” This economy was a self-reliant and informal system that highlighted China’s underlying entrepreneurial spirit. It was also during this time that the guanxi economy began to spread. Local officials would host unofficial markets for goods.

The Chinese were relying on technology transported from USSR in the 1950s. There had been no technological advancements or upgrades since the Great Leap Forward. Additionally, Chinese research and development was destroyed by the rustication of intellectuals and the lack of academic exchanges with the outside world. In comparison, the Soviet Union was the second largest economy until 1988 when it was surpassed by Japan. It was a strong military power with advanced scientific technology and high economic growth rates.

New leadership

The third condition was China’s leadership. The last years of Mao’s life gave Deng Xiaoping the power he needed for future market reform. He became identified for rebuilding the party state. Deng had strong revolutionary ties and was largely regarded as a national authority. He is historically noted as the father of the revival of China and market reform. In contrast, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader at the time, was a relatively new member of the Party and a weak leader. When the USSR began to slip, Gorbachev lacked the authority or power to save the Soviet Union or the Party.

Turn to the West

The fourth and final condition necessary to bring about modern Chinese success was the “turn to the West”. After the Sino-Soviet split and Richard Nixon’s visit to China, the CCP helped forge an anti-Soviet coalition alongside the United States. This led to technological investment by the West from both Japan and the U.S. As a result, the Soviet Union was increasingly isolated, ultimately leading to the collapse of the USSR. By turning to the West, China opened itself and its economy to the world, ushering in a new era of Chinese growth.

China has nearly come full circle in less than half a century. Today, China is highly centralized with great economic success and nationalism. The CCP’s modern obsession with stability comes from the Mao Era’s history of instability. This leaves today’s leaders, particularly Xi Jingping, thinking that reform is nearly impossible. Like the Soviets in the 1970s, there’s a lot to lose. After almost 40 years of strong bureaucratic management, heavily integrated vested interests block reform despite Xi’s Anti-Corruption Campaign.  With enormous wealth for those connected to the system, heavy financing from state banks, and general income inequality, there’s little impetus for further change.

claire_huitClaire Huitt is a senior at Southern Methodist University triple majoring in public policy, economics, and political science with a focus on international relations and the Asian Pacific. She is a Bauer Scholar in Political Science, Hamilton Scholar, Engaged Learning Fellow, a representative of IGNITE Women in Politics, Chair on Asian Pacific Relations with the Tower Center Student Forum, Dedman School of Law Pre-Law Scholar, New Century Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program. After graduation Claire intends to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and foreign affairs.

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Latinos in Dallas-Fort Worth are changing the bottom-line for area grocers

The Dallas Morning News reported that the 2.2 million Hispanics living in Dallas-Fort Worth spend an average of $582 per household on groceries each month.

Area grocers are competing for their share, and according to Tower Center Associate Edward Rincón, president of the research firm Rincón & Associates, Fiesta Mart is losing market share among native-born Latinos to Wal-Mart.

“There is a new battle for Hispanic shoppers, both immigrants and native born,  heating up with Wal-Mart and other stores adding options to appeal to consumers who want the fresh ingredients, flavors and brands they grew up with,” DMN reporter Maria Halkias wrote.

Read the full DMN article here.

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TC Associate Edward Rincón | How trustworthy are polls?

As Arlington residents prepare to vote on the proposed $1 billion Texas Rangers stadium Nov. 8, Tower Center Associate Edward Rincón examined the public opinion polls leading up to the vote. He found short-comings in all of them.

“Sponsors of public opinion polls do not always place much value in accurately measuring public opinion as reflected by their polling practices.

Good or bad, these polls can influence voting outcomes on issues like the Texas Rangers stadium ballot measure,” Rincón said.

Take a look at the six factors he advises to consider before trusting a poll.

Read the full blog here.

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Why the U.S. leaked its war plan in Iraq

Tower Chair Joshua Rovner coauthored an editorial with political scientist Caitlin Talmadge, “The U.S. just leaked its war plan in Iraq. Why?” in the Washington Post.

Rovner and Talmadge argue that the Islamic State might not be the intended audience of the leak — they know a battle for Mosul is coming eventually anyway.

“The United States might be trying to signal its own trustworthiness as a partner, stiffen the backs of unmotivated Iraqi forces, create a fait accompli with regards to campaign planning, or some combination of the above,” they wrote.

Read the article here.

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Student Blog | Brexit will cost the UK, EU

Dr. Harold Clarke opens the discussion at the Tower Center Student Forum event, “A Brexit Discussion” Oct. 7.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has come to the forefront of foreign policy discussions across the world. In the Tower Center Student Forum’s most recent event, A Brexit Discussion, scholars Dr. Harold Clarke of the University of Texas at Dallas and Dr. Lorinc Redei of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, shared opinions regarding the outcome of upcoming UK/EU negotiations and the precedent set by Brexit. Clarke provided an analysis of politics and public opinion leading to Brexit, while Redei examined Brexit from the EU’s perspective.

Dr. Harold Clarke: The politics and public opinion leading to Brexit

This has been a long time coming. A third of voters voted to leave the EU in 1975. While Euroscepticism was a minority view, it still had a presence in UK politics. Such sentiment was only furthered by the Maastricht Treaty of 1990 which expanded the EU outside of free trade and made it a political project. As a reaction to the increasing integration of Europe and the increasing prominence of Euroscepticism, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a right-wing populist party, was founded in 1993. Ultimately UKIP became the formal movement Brexit needed to be successful.


Clarke said that there has always been a great deal of volatility in public opinion. Brexit wasn’t just about demographic division or regular voting lines; partisan cues were far weaker in this vote. From 2010 to June 22nd, 2016, this battle was closely fought. Just two days prior to the vote Remain had a two point lead, but still “the world ended” June 24. Leave was not a nationwide consensus. UGOV polling showed that while Wales and England had a majority leave vote, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. The youth population and the upper-class elites both voted to remain as well; surprisingly, there was no gender difference.

Short-term forces

Clarke stressed the fact that Brexit was the result of short-term forces. Both Remain and Leave ran largely negative campaigns. From the Remain camp, also referred to as “Project Fear”, rhetoric focused on the costs of leaving rather than the benefits of staying. Former Prime Minister David Cameron relied heavily on the influence of others’ intimidation. From President Barack Obama to the Prime Minister of Sweden to David Beckham, the Remain campaign used famous faces to convey a daunting message – leaving the EU would be tremendously costly. Similarly, the Leave campaign’s success relied on the population’s perception of risk. By disseminating fear that the UK would drown in immigrants, lose its sovereignty, democracy, and culture, proponents of leaving the EU played off the emotions of voters. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and the Leave campaign, and Boris Johnson played a pivotal role in Leave’s victory. While Farage has a negative or “rough” reputation, Johnson is extremely popular. His massive influence led to the phrase, “No Boris, No Brexit.”

Evaluating Brexit

In the wake of Brexit, the media and elites trashed the electorate and shamed the majority of voters for their choice. Many have said that Brexit was the result of poor voter turnout and that it isn’t representative of the full electorate’s opinion. Yet for all the criticism of the voters, Clarke stated that Brexit is the result of weak partisan cues and strong short-term forces.

redei_cropDr. Lorinc Redei: Brexit from the EU perspective

Brexit is a clash of politics not economics. According to Redei, it is about sovereignty and controlling borders. The UK only has two options in the upcoming proceedings: (1) They can stay in the single market and accept the free movement of people, or (2) they can stay in only with “one little toe.” The first option would  be politically worse and leave the UK no role in the decision-making processes of the EU. The second option wouldn’t be much better as it would come at tremendous economic cost to the UK. No matter what comes of the upcoming UK/EU talks, the UK government will be very unpopular at home.

From the EU side

The rest of the EU hates the United Kingdom. Major EU problems such as the Greek financial crisis, the immigration crisis, and youth unemployment, will be swept under the rug for the next two years while the EU negotiates with the UK. As a result, the EU will drive a hard bargain. Three factors the UK needs to keep in mind during negotiations: (1) the EU holds the cards, (2) the EU will resist giving the UK any kind of special deal in order to prevent other member states from demanding the same, and (3) the result will showcase the benefits versus costs of leaving the EU. With so much negativity surrounding Brexit (the pound is now at a 30-year low against the dollar), this is a perfect opportunity for the EU to discourage other member states from withdrawing.

Long-term effects

Despite the upper hand of the EU, Redei said that a hard Brexit will cause fallout in the long term. The first repercussion is Brexit will usher in a trend of European disintegration. Aside from Greenland, this is the first real geographic reduction to the EU in an otherwise upward trend of increasing integration. There’s no precedent for the transference of policy from the EU back to the member states, but now, because of Brexit, states will consider the renationalization of policies. Already, the UK has sparked repatriation in other European states, as seen in Hungary with both their referendum on asylum and their hard border with Serbia.

The second repercussion is the unpreventable portrayal of Brexit as the UK verses the EU, with the EU as the monster, “trampling on good ole’ Brits.” It’s already causing a strong wave of anti-Europeanism. In light of both of these, Brexit will likely come at a great cost not only to the UK, but also to the entire European Union.

Listen to “A Brexit Discussion”:


claire_huitClaire Huitt is a senior at Southern Methodist University triple majoring in public policy, economics, and political science with a focus on international relations and the Asian Pacific. She is a Bauer Scholar in Political Science, Hamilton Scholar, Engaged Learning Fellow, a representative of IGNITE Women in Politics, Chair on Asian Pacific Relations with the Tower Center Student Forum, Dedman School of Law Pre-Law Scholar, New Century Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program. After graduation Claire intends to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and foreign affairs.

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Cal Jillson Provides Historical Precedent to Nasty 2016 Campaigns

Tower Center Associate Cal Jillson provided historical precedent to the nasty campaigning seen in the 2016 election in an interview with WFAA. He said Thomas Jefferson and John Adams also engaged in personal attacks during their campaigns in 1800.

Jillson doesn’t seem to think the strategy, especially during the debates, is helping Donald Trump expand his voter base.

“He solidified his base of 40 percent, but he didn’t grow it at all,” Jillson said. “And 40 percent doesn’t win you a presidential election.”

Debate number three, coming up next week on Oct. 19, could be uglier than the last two, according to Jillson and another expert interviewed.

Read the WFAA article here.

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