The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Ray La Raja and Jonathan Rauch write that the American political nominating process has become “bizarre,” ceding too much power to primary voters. They say no other major democracy routinely uses primaries to choose its political candidates and the founders of the United States never intended for primaries to play a role in the country’s electoral system.

Professor Raymond J. La Raja, is interviewed on the local public affairs program Connecting Point about the pros and cons of changing the political campaign finance system to allow matching small contributions with public funds. He says some places have such an arrangement, but it isn’t clear that this will work everywhere. (WGBY-TV 57)


The International Council for Online Dispute Resolution (ICODR) held its inaugural board meeting this week in Williamsburg, VA alongside the international Online Dispute Resolution Forum 2019. Legal Studies faculty member, Leah Wing (pictured), and Legal Studies Emeritus Distinguished faculty member, Ethan Katsh (pictured) serve on the founding board of ICODR.

Paul Musgrave, political science, says President Donald J. Trump’s perceptions of how the temporary ceasefire in Syria is succeeding, based on the word of the Turkish president, is revealing. “This all seems to result from Trump’s somewhat bizarre but persistent belief that you can only trust the word of other strongmen – from China’s Xi Jinping to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to Russia’s Vladimir Putin,” Musgrave says. “I’m not sure I can easily think of other times when this sort of personal trust in authoritarian leaders has so dictated U.S. presidents’ approaches.” (Vox, 10/18/19)

Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science, the School of Public Policy and director of the National Center for Digital Government, has been named to a list of the “100 Most Influential People in Digital Government” for the second year in a row.

A team of UMass Amherst researchers has received a three-year, $460,000 National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network grant for a project aimed to help better understand the interplay between policy design and human behavior. The grant, awarded to Douglas Rice, assistant professor of political science and legal studies, Charles Schweik, professor of environmental conservation and public policy, and Brenda Bushouse, associate professor of political science and public policy, aims to build an interdisciplinary international network of policy scholars, behavioral researchers and computational scientists to develop mechanisms to allow these kinds of comparisons to move toward a more robust, quantitative science.

Professor Musgrave comments in a news story about how members of the Trump administration and some conservative politicians have adopted the idea of a “deep state” to attack their political enemies. He says the idea was originally used to describe countries where the military and national security apparatus played a large role in the actions of civilian governments. In the U.S. government, he says, “It’s a really useful bogeyman, but there is no evidence for it.”

He also states that it is apparent that President Donald J. Trump is unfit for office, but the U.S. Constitution and our laws don’t have a clear answer to how to quickly remove him. He says there are tools available such as the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and the impeachment process, but neither of those fits well with the current situation. Musgrave also says both of those fixes are hampered by the high level of congressional incapacity that has developed in recent decades.

by Seth Oldmixon and Arafat Kabir

"Rohingya Refugees Pose A Global Humanitarian Crisis. They May Become A Global Security One"

An article about the status of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the concerns about the rising crime rate and drug addictions in the camps and their concerns about the extremist education within the camps. The authors outline the root cause of the crisis which is that the refugees lack a clear path to a meaningful future outside the camps.

Professor Paul Musgrave writes that President Donald Trump’s interactions with the president of Ukraine show that the greatest challenges to post-Cold War liberal order has come from the country — the U.S. — that was supposed to lead it.


A column about the changing ways that political parties raise money quotes Professor Ray J. La Raja who says it’s not too surprising that President Donald Trump has raised more money from small donors because Trump ignites the passions in individual donors.