Executive Order in the Trump Administration

Cate Pollini


Within governments, executives administer the laws that are passed/created by the legislatures. The executive branch of government consists of a head of state, that serves as symbolic representation (monarch) and a head of a government that is responsible for forming governments and implementing laws/policies (prime ministers/presidents). There are two ways to structure the executive branch: presidential and parliamentary. These types of executives have formal powers outlined in their constitution. Formal powers are important to the head of government and their cabinet because it gives them the ability to perform the executive order, state of emergency, or other decrees that can be passed without legislation. Executive leaders also have the power to form coalitions when the winning party does not win the majority.


Earlier this fall, President Trump stated that he plans to end the 14th Amendment that provides birthright citizenship by using an executive order. Trump believes that it is “ridiculous” that a non-US citizen can come to America, have a baby and that baby can automatically be a citizen until death. The 14th Amendment, however, has protected immigrant children like in the 1898 case US v Wong Kim Ark and 1982 case Plyler v Doe.  Nonetheless, executive orders cannot amend the constitution. They must work within the framework of the constitution. In other words, the Constitution cannot be legally erased by executive order.


Should heads of states be given enough power to actually amend a constitution especially if their amendment isn’t in the best interest of the population?


In terms of America’s constitution, President Trump could amend the constitution by calling for a Constitutional Convention and get at least a ⅔ vote from the House and ¾ of the 50 states. So, even though a head of state may be given enough power to amend a constitution they have to surpass many obstacles, which will most likely end with their order becoming illegal. However, in countries with less democratic ideals the head of states “obscure” orders may be enacted due to the loss of liberalism and equality in their country.



  1. Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  2. Chris Riotta. “Trump Wants to Use an Executive Order to Override the 14th Amendment. Here’s Why That Won’t Work.” The Independent. October 30, 2018. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/birthright-citizenship-14th-amendment-trump-executive-order-immigrants-constitution-a8608836.html.

State Capacity in Nigeria

Cate Pollini


A case study by Dickovick and Eastwood explains what a weak state is and how it can be changed, in regards to Nigeria. They use the term state capacity that explains that a strong state is capable of implementing public service acts such as educational investments or establishing a rule of law. In regards to whether Nigeria is a strong state, it is dependent on whether or not “one thinks transforming the state is feasible in a given span of time, and what steps can be recommended to get there.”


In the month of April alone in Nigeria, armed robbers stormed five banks in Offa, Kwara and shot aimlessly and blew up entrances, resulting in 17 Nigerian deaths. There were also herdsman attacks that week as well. These attacks, in addition to others, in just the first 10 weeks of the new year already resulted in about 1,351 deaths. These violent attacks call to question the section of the 1999 constitution that states “the security and welfare of the people shall be a primary purpose of the government.” By these attacks, one can conclude that Nigeria’s rule of law and its state capacity are being completely ignored. The government is unable to submit to sections of their constitution as well as react swiftly to control violence amongst its citizens. Therefore, political scientists (according to Dickovick and Eastwood) thinking in a rationalist point of view can determine that by these acts of violence mean Nigeria is truly a failed state since the political institutions put in place do not provide adequate responses.


Is there a precise way to establish whether a nation is a “failed state,” without having to think in terms of rationalism or historical events?


While determining whether a nation is a failed state it is important to think in ambiguous terms. Being open to more than one interpretation is important in political science and in class, especially while determining statehood. It helps to establish multiple, unbias viewpoints on a particular subject that can move towards a definitive conclusion.



  1. Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
  2. Yemisi Adegoke. “Is It Fair to Call Nigeria a Failed State?” The Guardian. April 11, 2018..https://guardian.ng/features/is-it-fair-to-call-nigeria-a-failed-state/

Can Quota Systems in Governments Achieve Equality?

Cate Pollini


Political parties based on gender, race, and ethnicity are linked to “cross-cutting” cleavages rather than “social stratification,” which means that they are able to represent multiple “cleavages” or ideals. Quotas are instituted in countries to guarantee minorities representation. Candidate quotas are best for crosscut cleavages and reservations, for groups that coincide. Reservations introduce group-specific means with separate electoral roles and special electoral districts that limit competition to group members. However, granting these quotas or reservations can undermine common citizenship and substantive representation.


In 1991, Argentina became the first country to invoke a quota that requires women to be nominated in political elections. Since then, 17 out of the 18 Latin American countries, including Mexico have a similar variation of this quota for women. However, these quotas rarely receive any of their intended results. As female friendly bills increase with new quota representation, they are rarely ever passed. They will only be passed if an abundant amount of females are able to back it. This means that quotas do not always provide assimilation in politics. Critics of these quotas believe that it deprives voters of desirable candidates even under proportional representation governance.


Are quota systems the best way to promote minority rights in government and give access to other high positions of power and even education?


According to Lijphart, quota systems are best instituted in a government with a PR system like in Mexico. However, even with quotas, Mexican female politicians are rarely ever elected or given true political authority. Chandra, on the other hand, believes that when a state creates institutions to mobilize different ethnic identity by language or tribe, it dilutes democracy. This is similar to Nigeria and their quota system that seeks to make sure Igbo, Hausa Fulani, and Yoruba have equal representation which in turn, diminishes their democracy.



  1. Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings:  Is Gender Like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2017), 255-264. 
  2. The Americas, “Latin America has Embraced Quotas for Female Political Candidates.” www.economist.com . https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2018/07/28/latin-america-has-embraced-quotas-for-female-political-candidates.

Will the Trade War with America change Chinese Economics?

Cate Pollini


China is a single party dominant system, controlled by the Communist Party of China, which was established by Mao Zedong. After Mao’s death, economic reforms were made to create “market socialism” by providing greater autonomy to farmers and privatizing firms by using free market techniques. Today, China faces problems with high levels of poverty in rural areas, pollution, and the legacy of the “one child” policy that creates problems with a rapidly aging population.


This upcoming week, China heads into an important round of negotiations with the US as they hash out the final plan regarding the ongoing trade war. The Chinese economy has fallen below a 6.5% growth rate. For years China has attempted to make its economy less manufacturing dependent and more focused on domestic services. However, since privatizing firms, companies are struggling to stay afloat and the trade war is killing off business as tariffs increase. In hopes to simulate its economy again, China has pledged to open itself to foreign capital, cut tariffs and buy more US goods.


Will China still be able to retain a fully communist style of governance if they want to stabilize and stimulate its economy from the ongoing trade war with the US?

If China were to open itself to foreign capital and investments they would be ignoring communism in its purest form. Yet, the country has already done this since the death of Mao with privatizing many firms. This is similar to democracies and factions. According to James Madison, the problem with factions is that not everyone will have the same opinion and if there is a majority it is not always democratic because the majority can be a faction. This would, in turn, dilute democracy in its purest form just as foreign capital and investments would alter the meaning of communism for China.



  1. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 412-420.
  2. Lingling Wei. “Trade Tensions Take a Toll on China’s Economy.” www.wsj.com. https://www.wsj.com/articles/trade-tensions-take-a-toll-on-chinas-economy-11546776001

How Will India’s Government React to its Upcoming Election?

Cate Pollini


Beginning in the early 1990’s India’s GDP and the central government in New Delhi appeared to be paralyzed. With the implementation of the license raj, the Indian government gave all power to the central government to decide who could manufacture goods and where they would be sold in response to attempts to earn foreign currency it needed. However, the collapse of the license raj gave way to rise and power of state government in India and a weaker central government. By having a strong state-led government that merges autonomous and autocratic principles India is set to be back on a strong economic path with a legitimate federal structure.


In 2019, India will see the prime minister, Modi running for reelection against Rahul Gandhi (Congress party). Since his rise to power, Modi has put India’s $2.6 trillion economies back on track. From his time in office, Modi’s BJP party has retained 20 out of the 29 of India’s state’s government power, putting him on track to be the most powerful and well funded out the candidates. However, a reduced majority in the lower house may imperial the economic reforms from the Modi administration. This would cause Modi to hand out cabinet seats to the National Democratic Alliance coalition that would risk the repeat of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. This alliance was seen during India’s economic crash. If it potentially repeats itself India’s state-led government will weaken, begging the question as to what will happen to all of the country’s economic prosperity with a more central government?


Can weaker central governments create stronger democracies if they place most of their power in the states?


Weak central governments in a country can be common in democracies. For India, merging once-autonomous principles into a unified state can be a sign of national maturity because a state can control their own economies. This is also similar to Germany as its state-led government does not mean anarchy.



  1. Ruchir Shamra,  “The Rise of the Rest of India: How States Have Become the Engines of Growth.” September 2013. www.ForeignAffairs.com
  2. Iain Marlow, “Analysis | Your Guide to India’s Upcoming General Election.” The Washington Post, (August 07, 2018). https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/your-guide-to-indias-upcoming-general-election/2018/08/07/b1334f78-9a8d-11e8-a8d8-9b4c13286d6b_story.html?utm_term=.575bb06a1a36

Identity Politics: Authoritarian or Democratic?

Cate Pollini


The concepts of race, gender and ethnicity have been a long-lasting debate for years. However, elected officials who represent minorities have been elected to governments after longstanding prejudices that have been held against them. Each society is constructed around boundaries that involve “in-groups” and “out-groups.” These groups or identities are formulated around race, gender, and ethnicity. Gender is a socially constructed idea in which biological sex (male/female) does not determine gender. Race is also not a biological concept as it can be determined through common ancestry and traditions. Ethnicity is often identified by the type of national identity, how the state deals with citizenship/residency and participation in public life.


In an interview conducted by The Economist, Francis Fukuyama discusses identity politics. Identity politics describes how people will choose their political beliefs based on their gender, ethnicity, race or sex rather than from the broader political spectrum. Fukuyama also expresses the need for a country to yield a creedal national identity meaning that one’s identity is based on their creed instead of their biology. For example, Hungarian identity is based on Hungarian ethnicity, so they have no room for those in their country who are not Hungarian.  


How does identity politics coincide with authoritarianism and democracy?


In regards to authoritarianism, some cultural groups will violate identity politics. In Iran, women are forced to wear hijabs to conceal their body and show their obligation to their religion as well as participate in arranged marriages. This is the regime undermining an individual’s right by using identity politics. On the other hand, Britain, a long-lasting democracy have used identity politics to initiate Brexit. Instead of being apart of the EU, British citizens would rather suffer economic consequences than give up their strong rooted traditions.  



Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 326-337. 

Open Future by A.L. Can Liberal Democracies Survive Identity Politics? www.economist.com. https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/09/30/can-liberal-democracies-survive-identity-politics

Do Social Revolutions Stimulate Progress?

Cate Pollini


In “States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China,” Skocpol analyzes the various components that intermesh together to create social revolutions. Social revolutions are best explained by finding the emergence of tension, instead of the making of the revolution. In Skopol’s terms, the emergence of a social revolution can be identified by a state breakdown and peasant mobilization. In France, Russia, and China social revolutions emerged due to military breakdown and the imperial state being caught between class uprisings and weak institutions. However, definitions of social revolutions are dependent on political and social backgrounds of countries as Skocpol stated, and some definitions are therefore insufficient like with Max Weber’s definition with bureaucratic domination.


As of July 24, 2018, Saudi women have been permitted to drive cars. Since Saudi Arabia is home to two holy Islamic sites and is a major oil exporter, successful social reforms would be able to bring about a moderate Islamic world. However, even though women being permitted to drive cars may be considered a social revolution it would be more accurate to categorize it as a social reform since there is no state breakdown or peasant mobilization like in Skocpol’s thesis.


Are social reforms able to stimulate the same amount of progress as social revolutions?


In regards to a country that has a long history of militants and repression like in Saudi Arabia, gradual social reforms may be best for change so no coup or insurgency will be sparked. An example of this would also be in Nigeria with the Biafran war. Nonetheless, social revolutions and reforms are dependable on a country’s political economy, social and international background.     



Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings: “States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2017), 220-225.

Leaders. “How to Ensure Muhammad Bin Salman’s Reforms Succeed.” The Economist. June 23, 2018. Accessed February 12, 2019. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/06/23/how-to-ensure-muhammad-bin-salmans-reforms-succeed.    


Australia and the Seven Prime Ministers

Cate Pollini


In The Formation of National Party Systems, the authors discuss party systems. The authors explain three concepts to analyze parties: first, party systems arise from divisions in society, second, parties emerge with collective societal change, that then form coalitions and third, party systems may arise from electoral rules or Duverger’s law. Durverger’s law is a government that favors a two-party system because of their plurality-rule elections and SMD run state. Regardless of this, parties are always seen to combine their political demands into policy, which is party aggregation.


Over the past eleven years, Australia has had seven prime ministers. To elected officials, Australia uses an alternative vote ballot in which voters rank candidates by preference. This narrows the race down to two major parties that will aggregate at the national level. Due to this voting structure, small parties are rarely ever able to gain seats in government. This relates to Duverger’s law because Australia favors a two-party system with their voting constituencies. This past year, Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull. The change in party leader relates to the importance of factions in the Australian government. The conservative factions believed their voice was not being heard because of the Liberal Party, so they called for an election in an attempt to govern themselves.


Are factions democratic if they are able to control major aspects of government such as elections?


In democracy’s purest form, all power is given to the people. Factions are instituted in governments so that people with the same interests are able to share their opinions and possibly form an identity in government. According to James Madison, the problem with factions is that not everyone will have the same opinion and if there is a majority it is not always democratic because the majority can be a faction. Instead, large republics should be formed because they can control factions by making decisions for the country.


PradeepChhibber and Ken Kollman. 2004. The Formation of National Party Systems: Federalism and Party Competition in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Text. 

Luke Mansillo. “Australia Has Had 7 Prime Ministers in Just 11 Years. Blame Its Quirky Election Laws.” The Washington Post. September 20, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/09/20/australia-has-had-7-prime-ministers-in-just-11-years-blame-its-quirky-election-laws/?utm_term=.e09e3e802315.

New President… New Rules

Cate Pollini


Since the Mexican Revolution ended in 1917, the Mexican political system can be viewed as “peaceful.” The Constitution of 1917 laid the groundwork for Mexico to ensure that there would no doctoral uprisings/revolutions as well as establishing new economic systems to stimulate Mexico’s economy. However, although Mexico offers elections every six years and there is a little censure of the press, the political party called the PRI has “an inordinate amount of power,” making the government dominated by a secular party that often uses authoritative tactics to stifle opposition.


On July 1, 2018, the Mexican government held a presidential election in which Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected president. In an article by the Economist, it states that once elected he pledged “a change in regime, not just a government.” He has pledged to improve Mexico’s economy by centralizing a moderate economy, but not necessarily democratizing which is seen in neoliberal economies. His efforts to do so have resulted in his commitment to not raise taxes in the first three years of his presidency. His cuts thus far in salaries of senior officials run the risk of being detrimental to a potential uprising within the state. AMLO has been able to fight corruption and violence and restored the authority of the federal government. However, the ways in which he has been fighting corruption appears to turn his Morena into the party of the state.


Can a country be considered a democracy if their leader holds authoritative tendencies, but overall democratic ideals?


In regards to Mexico, a way to measure if it is truly a democracy is by using Satori’s Ladder. It would start with the procedural minimum definition of democracy, which is if it meets the requirements for an electoral regime. This device would help to determine if Mexico is a democracy or an illiberal democracy with diminished subtypes.



Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, Don Share, Cases in Comparative Politics: Sixth Edition (2018). 

“Mexico’s New President Sets out to Change His Country’s Course.” The Economist. September 20, 2018. Accessed October 18, 2018. https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2018/09/22/mexicos-new-president-sets-out-to-change-his-countrys-course.   

Democracy Defined

In their own excerpt, Dan Collier and Steven Levitsky grapple with the definition of democracy. Over the last century, countries have challenged the concept of democracy as they move towards democratic transitions and democratization. The article explores alternative and more precise ways to define democracy by using Satori’s Ladder to create diminished subtypes of democracy, characterizing democracy by adding defining key characteristics and shifting the overarching concept.


By using Sartori’s ladder one can compare Poland to the procedural minimum definition of democracy. For example, as you go up the ladder of generality Poland meets the standards for, an electoral regime and down on the ladder a parliamentary democracy. However, according to a Washington Post article, over the past few months, Poland has been criticized in regards to “turning its back” on democracy. In the Law and Justice Party, they are de-establishing Poland’s Constitution Tribunal so that it doesn’t do anything that the PiS doesn’t want. In regards to the definition of democracy and Satori’s Ladder, this would place Poland along the lines of a diminished subtype as it heads towards illiberal democracy. This means that although Poland does hit the “root definition” of democracy, the diminished subtypes helps to avoid conceptual stretching while determining democratic countries.


Will scholars ever be able to determine a precise definition of democracy with so many diminished subtypes and loose interpretations of democratic characteristics?


Although there are so many different democratic regimes around the globe, having a definitive definition of what a democracy it would be extremely difficult. Nonetheless, the usage of subtypes and “defining attributes” help to narrow down the scale. Being able to differentiate these attributes instead of conceptualizing them and their trade-offs are important towards moving to a better understanding of democracy as shown in Satori’s ladder.



David Collier and Steven Levitsky. “Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research.” World Politics 49, no. 03 (1997): 430-51. 

Editorial Board. “Opinion | Democracy’s Slow Fade in Central Europe.” The Washington Post. (July 7, 2018.) https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/democracys-slow-fade-in-central-europe/2018/07/07/d155d1e4-8099-11e8-b0ef-fffcabeff946_story.html?utm_term=.a59cafffa705.