GOVT 2306 – Dr. Crissien
Critical Thinking Assignment: Analyzing Your State Senate District
OBJECTIVE: This assignment has two key purposes: 1) for the student to identify and analyze their state senate district; 2) for the student to think critically about their state senator (culturally and ideologically). Translation: you are demonstrating your capacity to understand your community (senate district) and assess the quality of representation.
BACKGROUND: One of the most important facets of a representative democracy is—unsurprisingly—REPRESENTATION. This assignment builds on a few key concepts related to the idea of representation—who represents us and how are we represented. In particular, we are building on the ideas of descriptive representation and substantive representation. Here’s what these mean:
Descriptive representation is the extent to which a representative resembles constituents. In other words, the focus here is on shared identity traits. A Hispanic person being represented by a Hispanic representative is one example. The key idea is that common identities are an important part of representation (occupation, gender, race, age, educational attainment, etc.)
Substantive representation is the actual activity of a representative. This means their view/values and how they actually behave in office (how they vote on legislation, what kind of legislation they author/support, etc.). From the substantive side, it is less important who they are. What matters is what they do.
PROCEDURES: You are about to link these concepts with your state senate district and state senator (i.e. analyzing the demographics of your district and the identity of your representative). You will conduct this analysis by doing the following:
1) Find your state senator by entering your address into this web page (https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home). Pay close attention that you are looking up your STATE SENATOR not your U.S. senator. It will say “Texas State Senate District ##” under their name. Click on their name to go to their page.
2) In new windows/tabs, open the links at the bottom of the page titled “District Profile”, “Population Analysis”, and “Election Analysis.” Keep these pages handy, you will need the demographic and electoral information.
3) Next, navigate to https://www.tribtalk.org/2019/06/12/the-2019-texas-senate-from-left-to-right/. Keep this page handy also.
4) Now that you have the required sites up, you can start on the writing portion. IMPORTANT NOTE: You are largely being graded for how thorough your answers are for each part. This means that each part should be answered in AT LEAST 200 words (complete sentences and IN YOUR OWN WORDS). If you avoid being lazy you should do well.
Writing Section #1 (15 Points):
1) Your first set of questions asks you to compare/contrast your background with that of your congressional district (your community). [SR1]
a. Describe your personal/cultural background (3 pts). Be sure to note any aspects of your identity that are important to political values (race/ethnicity, parents occupation, parents education, household income, gender). Has this produced conservative, liberal, or moderate values? Do you identify more with Democrats or Republicans? (Note: If this feels too personal/intrusive, feel free to make up an imaginary person.)
b. Using the info from the “District Profile”, “Population Analysis”, and “Election Analysis” pages, describe the demographics and party tendencies of your district (4 pts). Be sure to discuss race/ethnicity, per capita income, and education. Also, discuss the party leanings of your district with your party leanings (yours is what you described in Q1). Note: For party tendencies you will use the results of the 2018 U.S Senate election (Cruz vs. O’Rourke). This will be the first election listed on the election analysis page. The greater the support for one candidate or other, the more “partisan” your district.
c. Compare and contrast yourself with your district (4 pts). Where do you see the greatest differences between you and your district? How might these differences produce contrasting political perspectives on issues? (If it’s helpful, feel free to use example issues like taxation, immigration, abortion, voter ID laws, etc.)?
2) Your next task is to compare/contrast your background/values with your state senator’s. [SR1]
a. Compare and contrast your background with that of your state senator (4 pts). You can learn about their background both from looking at them and also reading about them on their website. Where is your common ground? Where are you different? Would you say that this is a strong descriptive representative for you?
Writing Section #2 (15 points):
3) Next, explore your state senator’s substantive representation (i.e. their values and positions on issues) [PR1 and PR2]:
a. Using the ideology information from the TribTalk page, compare your personal ideology to your state senator’s (4 pts). According to the ideology score chart, how conservative/liberal is your representative? (You can measure this by how far right or left they are from center and by comparing them to other state senators.) How does this compare/contrast with your ideology? Are you more liberal/conservative? Do you lean toward their party?
b. Using either your state senator’s bio page, personal website, or campaign website, identify your state senator’s position on a key issue (4 pts). What type of issue is it (social or fiscal) and does your senator take a liberal or conservative position (be sure to explain why)? What is your position? In your opinion, what should be done about this issue? Do you agree or disagree with your senator (and why)?
4) Now that you have an issue position, you should think about how to put it into action. [SR2]
a. Who in the government OR community should be involved? What specific actions can you (and others) take? Why is it important to get people involved in this cause and what will be the benefits of this action? (3 pts.)
5) Let’s assume that you are successful in your efforts, and you achieve your policy goal. Now it is time to assess the impact of this potential change. [PR3]
a. What do you believe will be the consequences of putting this policy into practice? (4 pts.) How would this improve your community, state, and country? What do you think will be the short-term effects (within the next year or two)? How about the long-term impacts (beyond 2 years)? Finally, what are some negative unintended consequences that might result from this course of action?
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