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Article

Clark, Septima Poinsette  

Brenda K. J. Crawley

Septima Poinsetta Clark (1898–1987) is well-known for her citizenship schools, literacy training, voting and civil rights activism, and community, political, and social services.

Article

Abernathy, Ralph David  

Lou M. Beasley

Ralph David Abernathy (1926–1990) was a pastor who became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after the assassination of Martin Luther King. He was director of personnel, dean of men, and professor of social studies at Alabama State University.

Article

Suffrage Rights  

Humberto Llavador

The historical evolution of the right to vote offers three observations. First, almost all groups have seen their voting rights challenged at some point in time, and almost all political movements have sought to exclude some other group from voting. Second, reforms towards suffrage extension are varied—from the direct introduction of universal (male) suffrage to a trickle down process of enfranchising a small group at a time. Third, the history of franchise extension is a history of expansions and contractions. Much of the literature on the evolution of the right to vote builds on the following question: Why would a ruling elite decide to extend the suffrage to excluded groups who have different interests in the level of redistribution and the provision of public goods? Two competing theories dominate the debate: Bottom-up or demand theories emphasizing the role of revolutionary threats, and top-down or supply theories, explaining franchise extensions as the outcome of the strategic interactions of those in power and elites in the democratic opposition. A second question addresses the choice of a particular path of franchise extension, asking what explains different strategies and, in particular, the role of their accompanying institutional reforms. In contrast to the literature on the inclusion of the lower classes, women’s suffrage has been traditionally presented as the conquest of the suffragette movement. Current research, however, departs from this exceptionalism of female suffrage and shows certain consensus in explaining women’s suffrage as a political calculus, in which men willingly extend the franchise when they expect to benefit from it. Arguments differ though in the specific mechanisms that explain the political calculus. Finally, the literature on compulsory voting addresses the estimations of its impact on turnout; whether it translates into more efficient campaigning, improved legitimacy, and better representativity; and ultimately its effects on policies.

Article

Latina/o Politics  

Benjamin Francis-Fallon

A national Latina/o politics emerged over a fifty-year period following the Great Depression. It reflected a broad attempt to forge a nationwide pan-ethnic constituency out of a host of political communities that had most often defined themselves by national origin (e.g., Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban). In almost every case, a central impulse of Latina/o politics was a faith that the country’s diverse Hispanic or Latina/o people had a natural obligation to unite with one another. Some activists and elected officials envisioned Latina/o political power formed in a coalition of communities that would remain distinct. Still others viewed political unification as a means to make concrete their feeling of primordial sameness and to bring about the transcendence of national origin differences. All expected unity to yield durable influence in national affairs. The possibilities of a national “Latin American” electorate began to appear sporadically during the 1960s. Mexican American and Puerto Rican politicians and activists, long seen as regional or local forces at best, embraced the nationalizing power of presidential campaigns and civil rights initiatives. Party elites viewed them as a temporary bloc, one that could be mobilized and demobilized quickly. In the 1970s, however, Latina/o politics was institutionalized. The urge to assemble a “Spanish-speaking vote” from coast to coast brought Latina/o political leaders of diverse ethnic and ideological orientations into greater contact with one another and with the major parties. Republicans attempted to fuse Mexican American voters, traditionally Democrats, with an emerging Cuban American vote in a middle-class “Hispanic Republican Movement.” Latina/o Democrats attempted to join Mexican American and Puerto Rican constituencies and thereby force their party to accept “Latina/os” as a permanent feature of the political landscape. This bipartisan competition defined core constituencies in both parties, with roughly two thirds of Latina/os backing Democrats and a third of Hispanic Americans supporting the GOP, numbers that have held steady since the period of consolidation in the 1970s. White elites in both major parties—including US presidents—provided grass-roots activists and elected officials the resources and legitimacy needed to nationalize Latina/o politics. Yet party incorporation has also enabled elites to manipulate the content and possibilities of Latina/o political organizing in ways that frustrated the search for unity. What emerged was, on one hand, the image of a “sleeping giant” poised to transform the country once it awoke, and on the other, a series of fierce counter-mobilizations that conflated Latina/os’ new prominence with illegality.

Article

The Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States  

Rebecca J. Mead

Woman suffragists in the United States engaged in a sustained, difficult, and multigenerational struggle: seventy-two years elapsed between the Seneca Falls convention (1848) and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920). During these years, activists gained confidence, developed skills, mobilized resources, learned to maneuver through the political process, and built a social movement. This essay describes key turning points and addresses internal tensions as well as external obstacles in the U.S. woman suffrage movement. It identifies important strategic, tactical, and rhetorical approaches that supported women’s claims for the vote and influenced public opinion, and shows how the movement was deeply connected to contemporaneous social, economic, and political contexts.

Article

Political Process and Youth Empowerment  

Jason Anthony Plummer

The political process refers to how individuals and groups make their concerns known to political actors. The animating force of the political process is social power. To that end, social workers should acquire political knowledge (e.g., factual understanding of voting rights) and critical analysis skills (e.g., an awareness of how social inequalities affect political outcomes) in order to support their clients’ and communities’ engagement in the political process.

Article

The Lisbon Treaty  

Jacques Ziller

The expression “the Lisbon Treaty” (LT) is a shortcut to the treaties upon which the European Union (EU) has been based since December 1, 2009. During the “reflection period” that lasted from June 2005 to December 2006 three options were available: remaining with the European treaties as amended by the Nice Treaty; starting new negotiations in order to adopt some changes deemed technically necessary; or trying to get “the substance” of the Constitutional Treaty (CT) of 2004 approved in the form a new treaty. Most member states and the EU institutions were in favor of the third option. The negotiations that led to the adoption of the LT in December 2007 departed from the usual treaty amendment scenarios. The content of the LT is to a large extent similar to that of the CT, as most of the novel provisions of that treaty have been taken over as they were written in the CT and introduced in the existing European Community (EC) and EU treaties. Apart from a few institutional innovations such as the Permanent President of the European Council and the new voting system in the Council, most innovations with regard to the European communities are to be found in the details. The ratification process of the LT was difficult, as it was slowed down by the necessity to hold two referenda in Ireland, and to overcome the resistance of the President of the Czech Republic, an overt Euroskeptic. The negotiations of 2007–2009 shed some light on the importance in EU policy-making and especially in treaty negotiations of the epistemic community of legal experts and, more precisely, of experts in EU law. Events in the years 2010 and 2011 led to minor treaty amendments, shaping the present content of what is usually referred to as the LT. Whether Brexit and the EP elections of 2019 will lead to important changes remains unknown.