Friday, January 23, 2009

Times change

I've been looking at an old GRE political science subject exam from the mid-1980s. It's a quick reminder of how much our academic focus has changed in the past two decades. Almost all the comparative politics questions, for example, involve communism. But here's an interesting question about parties:
Which of the following statements correctly describes changes that have occurred in the presidential nominating procedures in the United States since 1968?

a) Candidates for presidential nomination have relied more heavily on state presidential preference primaries and on winning delegate support through the primary process.
b) It is far more difficult for relatively unknown candidates to challenge obvious "frontrunner" candidates successfully.
c) A number of court decisions have made it clear that when national political party rules are in conflict with state law regarding presidential nomination procedures, state law takes precedence.
d) Changing practices and rules have clearly reduced the importance of the mass media, particularly television, in the presidential nominating process.
e) The political party organizations have attempted to strengthen their control over the presidential nominating procedure by making the procedure more closed and more centralized at the state and national levels.
For the record, the "correct" answer is A, but you could make a pretty good argument for B and E. I'd say there's no real consensus correct answer today, although it may have been pretty obvious in 1985.

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