Saturday, September 27, 2014

9/27 Another Stab at the Constitution

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/07/08/another-stab-at-the-us-constitution

The piece we are looking at today is a modern commentary and analysis of the Constitution. Last class we spent more time looking at the historical context of the Constitution itself, as well as the Federalist Papers, which was also a commentary on the Constitution, and considered still be the most authoritative interpretation of the Constitution.

In today's piece which is taken from The New York Times, several prominent scholars give their analysis over controversial or problematic aspects of the Constitution. In many regards most of what the contributors suggest would seem to be fairly radical changes to the Constitution, of course in the past, such changes have occurred.

The first commentary by Jamal Greene, questions whether to create term limits for federal judges, as he says: 
In a democracy, no one person should wield so much power for so long. Article III of the Constitution provides that federal judges “shall hold their offices during good behaviour.” In practice this language means they serve for life absent voluntary retirement or impeachment. Were we to draft the Constitution today, we would be wise to reconsider this provision.

His reasoning for this seems to rest on two main points: one, he argues in some cases judges simply become too old to effectively render judgements in cases, something which requires a person to be at the peak of their mental faculties. Two, he argues that life-term appointments makes the selection process of judges too political. Federal judges are nominated by the President, but approved by the U.S. Senate. Over the last 20-25 years this process has become incredibly complicated due to the inability of opposed political parties to come to agreement (you might remember the Gallup piece from a few weeks ago which pointed to polling data which supports this).


He argues that the example of other countries that have term limits or mandatory retirement ages might be a good example, and seems drawn to the idea of an 18-year term. 18 years is by any standard a long-term in office, but many would still be opposed to limiting the terms of judges.


The second piece by Rachel Barkow, looks at the eight amendment of the Constitution and how it might relate to the current problem of imprisonment in the U.S. Despite the repeated claims to being the land of the free, the U.S. leads the rest of the world in the number of people in prison, which as she points out is made up of significantly larger portions of minority groups in the country. Certainly the profit motive is still alive and well at least, because running prisons has become a profitable industry as of late, led by corporations like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which also lobbys the government for longer prison terms and less leniency, not because it feels threatened by criminals, but because shorter prison terms would mean less business. The U.S. is also the third largest in terms of the number of executions carried out by the justice system behind only Saudi Arabia and China.


Barkow looks to the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, or what we refer to as the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments) which bans the use of "cruel and unusual punishment." Putting aside the idea of executions which she does not go into, but obviously would be opposed to, she argues that the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment should prohibit excessively long prison sentences as well:

As I have suggested elsewhere, clarifying and expanding the Eighth Amendment could help. It should specifically state that excessive terms of incarceration are prohibited, just as it bans excessive fines. It should expressly prohibit mandatory sentences so that every case gets the benefit of individualized attention by a judge. And it should insist that legislatures create a record showing that they considered empirical evidence about the law's likely impact. 
It is important to see that before any action can be undertaken, there must be some groundwork for this action in the Constitution. In this case she argues that the Eighth Amendment lays the groundwork that would make the movement towards shorter prison terms a legitimate, and legal course of action.

The third piece by Akhil Reed Amar, looks at the limitations on naturalized citizens for holding office, specifically the President. The Constitution states that only citizens born in the U.S. are eligible to be President of the U.S., as he says:
But those American citizens who happen to have been born abroad to non-American parents — and who later choose to become “naturalized” American citizens — are not the full legal equals of those of us born in the U.S. True, naturalized Americans have always been allowed to serve as cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices, senators and governors. And at the founding, anyone already a citizen could be president, regardless of birthplace. (Alexander Hamilton, for example, though born in the West Indies, was fully eligible to serve as president under the Constitution he himself helped draft.) But modern-day naturalized citizens are barred from the presidency simply because they were born in the wrong place to the wrong parents.
We can look back to the readings from Bourne and Chesterton and relate their views on transnationalism or as Chesterton called it the "the nationalization of the internationalized" to this restriction. Do you think Bourne and Chesterton would be in favor of lifting this restriction? Do you think it is fair to continue this restriction, or should any citizen regardless of birth be eligible to one-day become President of the U.S. On a related note, the bizarre obsession with the current President's birthplace relates to this, if the President were born in Kenya as many on the political right-wing suggest, then he would be ineligible to be President. Of course in this case, the racial overtones of this so-called argument are obvious.

The fourth piece by Elizabeth Price Foley argues for the importance of federalism. Federalism is a doctrine which explicitly divides the power of government between the center (or federal) government and regional states which retain some independence and autonomy from the center. Some other countries have what is called a unitary government where the top-level of government appoints all the lower levels as well, thus power and control is in the hands of the top government officials. In our country, the governor of New York for example has certain freedoms to act that the President and Congress cannot limit. In practice, however, especially in recent times the extent and influence of the federal government has increased, mainly as a result of the influence the federal government has in directing funds for the states in multiple areas like education or even to maintain roads.

Foley argues that this expansion of government power threatens the idea of federalism which the Constitution is based on:
Federalism isn't about states' rights. It's about individual liberty. The Supreme Court emphasized this in Bond v. United States (2011): "By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power. When government acts in excess of its lawful powers, that liberty is at stake." And lest you think this emanates from the court's right wing, Bond was unanimous.

As the last line indicates however, this view has increasingly become seen as more of a conservative or right-wing opinion. She goes on to point out how the Supreme Court had recently ruled against certain aspects of the health care law that would force state governments to act. Again, think back to the Gallup poll, which showed that when the opposing party is in power, people on the other side favor greater restrictions on government power. If a Republican government was in office today, would conservatives still argue for federalism as strongly as they are now?

The fifth piece by Alexander Keyssar argues to abolish the electoral college. We know the President is not elected through a direct popular vote, but is chosen by electors equal to each states representation in Congress, meaning that elections are decided on a state by state basis. This is one of the more well known and controversial aspects of the Constitution today. As he says:
Moreover, we have learned a lot in the last 225 years about shortcomings in the framers’ design: the person who wins the most votes doesn’t necessarily become president; the adoption of “winner take all” rules (permitted but not mandated by the Constitution) produces election campaigns that ignore most of the country and contribute to low turnout; the legislature of any state can decide to choose electors by itself and decline to hold an election at all; and the complex procedure for dealing with an election in which no candidate wins a clear majority of the electoral vote is fraught with peril. As a nation, we have come to embrace “one person, one vote” as a fundamental democratic principle, yet the allocation of electoral votes to the states violates that principle. It is hardly an accident that no other country in the world has imitated our Electoral College. 

The sixth piece by Michael Rappaport looks at the process by which the Constitution is changed. Paradoxically he argues that the process of changing the Constitution has come to a point where it is virtually impossible to change. There are two methods for changing the Constitution. The first requires that 2/3 of both houses of Congress agree to an amendment which is then sent to the states to ratify, or approve of the proposed amendment. There is a second method but is has never been used as he says:
The second method is for two-thirds of the state legislatures to call for a constitutional convention that would then propose an amendment (which, again, would have to be ratified by the states). This second method has never been used, because the state legislatures fear a runaway convention. They are concerned that if they call a convention to draft a balanced budget amendment, the convention will end up proposing an amendment on same-sex marriage or school prayer. 
This argument matches up well with Foley's federalist argument since it reserves a more active role for the states, again quoting his argument:
The Constitution should be changed to eliminate the possibility of a runaway convention. The best way to do this is to dispense with a constitutional convention and instead have the state legislatures agree to propose a specific amendment. But any method that allows for a working alternative to Congress’s amendment monopoly would be an enormous improvement.
The seventh piece by Melynda Price deals with another highly publicized and controversial aspect of the Constitution, the "right to bear arms" in the second amendment. Price who is in favor of abolishing this right argues:
I am not naïve enough to believe that doing away with the Second Amendment would do away with gun violence, but I know firsthand the impact of guns and gun shots on children. This nation was constructed and reconstructed in the aftermath of violent and bloody conflicts. Still, the Framers believed that not only the Constitution, but also the peaceful way the document was created, would penetrate the Americans' minds and change they engaged. The Constitution would be the only weapon needed unless there was an external enemy. 
The eight piece by Jenny Martinez deals with the interpretation of the Constitution in a more international setting, that being how important are treaties signed with other countries in the legal process of this country. Martinez points to what is called the "supremacy clause" in the Constitution,  “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

However she addresses the often conflicting tendency of courts to ignore treaties that have been signed with other countries, as she points out:
But the Supreme Court has interpreted the supremacy clause in ways that contradict its text and original purpose; the court has suggested that the clause doesn’t mean what it says as far as treaties are concerned. One of the strangest of these decisions came a few years ago in a case involving Texas’s failure to notify Mexican citizens facing the death penalty that they were entitled by a treaty to speak to their consulate. In that case, Medellín v. Texas, the Supreme Court held that the treaty (and a decision of the International Court of Justice interpreting it) weren’t actually enforceable against Texas.
The ninth piece is by Randy Barnett and concerns the Commerce clause of the the Constitution. This gives Congress the power to regulate business in the country. Barnett argues that this power also has grown too much and exceeds what it is meant for. He argues the clause should be reworded as:
"The power of Congress to make all laws that are necessary and proper to regulate commerce among the several states, or with foreign nations, shall not be construed to include the power to regulate or prohibit any activity that is confined within a single state regardless of its effects outside the state, whether it employs instrumentalities therefrom, or whether its regulation or prohibition is part of a comprehensive regulatory scheme; but Congress shall have power to regulate harmful emissions between one state and another, and to define and provide for punishment of offenses constituting acts of war or violent insurrection against the United States."
Compared with its original text in the Constitution which is much shorter (Article 1 Section 8 Clause 3): "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." Is this more complex version necessary? The purpose of the commerce clause is to regulate what is called "interstate business" meaning business that goes on across state boundaries. Commerce or business that takes place wholly in one state then should be regulated by the state it is in, but again in modern times the distinctions between interstate and state commerce are blurred. This also affects the interests of many large corporations which operate throughout the country and beyond even national boundaries.

The final piece by Pauline Maier looks at the most well known part of the Constitution, the first amendment to the Bill of Rights. However she argues that the wording of the text is flawed and argues it should be expanded on:


“Congress shall make no law” is a peculiarly stingy way to begin an amendment that protects the rights of conscience, speech, press, assembly and petition. James Madison proposed more capacious language for those rights. He would have said, for example, that “the civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.” He would also have stated that “the people shall not be deprived of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.”
She argues that this would clearly separate the protections giving to people and to corporations which also appeal to first amendment rights to justify lobbying the government.

These authors represent different political perspectives and isolate different problematic areas of the Constitutions which continue to be debated in the present. Some call for new interpretations of how we understand our rights, others for re-wording or altering certain parts of the text, others still call for getting rid of what they see as outdated features of the Constitution.

Next week we will not have class due to the holiday. The following week we will have the midterm 10/11. The week after 10/18 we will be in class again. 

The midterm will also be taken online, on Blackboard. The exam will be posted under Content and will be available between 12:00-3:00 PM on 10/11. The exam will consist of one essay question dealing with one or more of the themes we have gone over in class: Power, Citizenship, and the Constitution. If you have kept up with the readings and online lectures you should have no problem with the exam.

Assignment Due 10/11 : Choose one of the authors from the New York Times article and choose a quote from one of these authors. Write out the quote and the meaning of it, and explain why you chose this quote.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

9/20 The Constitution and the Federalist (Part 1)

"Scene at the Signing of the Constitution," Howard Chandler Christy, 1940, U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C.


The Articles of Confederation established the first system of government, first ratified in 1777 and again in 1781. The period between 1783-1789 the government was organized according to the Articles of Confederation. Notably, this system of government had no president, there was a Congress of the Confederation but there was only one branch or house, instead of two, and there was no supreme court. The 13 states which were really more like separate countries at this point and had very broad powers, maintained their own state militias, and in many cases even printed their own money and came up with their own rules on trade. The general consensus on this period of time was that the government was weak and ineffective and as a result of this conflict and disorder was increasing within the states and even between the states.


In 1786, the Annapolis Convention met in Maryland. The major result of this convention was an agreement to set another Convention in Philadelphia with purposes of "amending" the Articles of Confederation. The result was between 1787-88 the Constitutional Convention met and produced an entirely new document and with that an entirely new system of government. This is the Constitution that most people are familiar with.


The Constitution is a rather short document consisting of seven articles that broadly lay out the powers and responsibilities of the government and its operation. You may have noticed The Declaration of Independence was not very long either. When we look at the speeches of Abraham Lincoln who delivered two of the greatest if not the greatest speeches in American history, they are also very short. When your aim is to persuade people often times keeping things short works much better than writing long volumes of text. 
Public meetings and gathering-places were thus an integral part of the political process and a means by which "ideology" or a set of political beliefs and attitudes, becomes meaningful for individuals. 

There were many debates within the Convention (the official records of which are still sealed). Many of the conflicts revolved around sharing power between the large states and the smaller states; questions of national debt and state debt incurred during the war; and of course slavery.


The first three articles set up the basic separation of power between the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the federal government. Many of the Enlightenment thinkers like Locke or the French thinker Montesquieu (1689-1755) adopted similar frameworks for the division of power and it has become accepted as standard in virtually every government in the world. 


Originally, the legislative branch (the law-making part of government) was supposed to be superior. This was meant to place a check on the power of the "king" and also to protect the "private property" of individuals. The executive branch which is charged with physically carrying out the laws is thus dependent on the legislature for funding (it must get its permission more or less) and the power to raise taxes rests with the legislature as well. 

The Legislative branch is entrusted with making all laws for the country and is composed of two branches: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Representatives are drawn based upon the population of the state. Larger states with larger populations have more representatives. Also if the population of the state increases past a certain point it will gain more representatives (or lose them if the population decreases). Representatives are drawn from different districts drawn up by the states who also control the laws for voting in their respective states. All bills for raising revenue are supposed to originate with the House since it is the more democratic branch of government. Because of its size the position of a Speaker for the House is created as well. The Senate is composed of two senators from each state regardless of size. This was intended as a compromise to give smaller states more equality in government. Senators were originally chosen by the state legislature, and not by the people directly, that lasted until the Progressive era in 1913.
 

In order for proposed legislation to become law it must pass through both houses of Congress and be approved by the president. The president can veto laws, but the Congress can override the veto if it gets a 2/3 majority in both houses. 


This is probably the most well-known example of the second major principle guiding the Constitution, the system of checks and balances. Similar to the separation of powers, this principle stipulates that the different branches of government have to be in agreement on major decisions and that each branch has the power to limit the power of the other branch. The idea of separation of powers would be pretty much meaningless if it did not include this as well. These two principles were designed above all else to prevent tyranny, even at the expense of effective government, or what Hamilton would call "energetic government." 


This is controversial, because although preventing some (not all) abuses of government authority, it makes it difficult to use the government for more constructive purposes, leading to what is called "gridlock." This is a common topic in the present because of the noted Republican opposition to the Obama administration. In this case, Republicans control the House of Representatives while the Senate is nominally a Democratic majority, so even controlling one part of the Congress is enough to effectively stall any programs or policies favored by the current administration. However, this is complicated because in the Senate at the present the rules have effectively changed to now require a 2/3 majority to pass legislation through instead of a "simple" majority (n > 50%). This is as a result of what is called the "filibuster" and its notable because it is NOT in the Constitution.


The first article is the longest, again an indication that the legislative branch is supposed to be the most important and lays out several other responsibilities of the government over things like immigration and trade. 


 For example, the Commerce Clause in Section 8: "To regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." This short passage actually provides the legal justification for Congress to pass laws regulating things like healthcare or even drugs which are made "illegal" by an act of Congress. 


There is also the Necessary and Proper Clause: "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." This clause is controversial because it gives power to Congress to pass laws "necessary" to accomplish its goals. This of course sparks controversy over how the Constitution is interpreted. 


Some favor what they call a strict interpretation of the Constitution meaning the government has no right to pass any laws or act in any way not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. This interpretation is mostly used by conservatives to limit the government's ability to regulate business or provide "privileges" to minority groups. Others favor a more broad interpretation of the Constitution and use this clause as a legal justification.


The second article deals with the executive branch of government headed by the President of the United States. This article explains the controversial electoral college, an institution that was set up to prevent presidential elections from being decided directly by the people. Instead votes are allocated based upon a number of "electoral votes" possessed by the individual states not by the people of the states. So when we count the results of the election we count the states the president won, not the people who voted for the president. This system tends to benefit the less popular candidate: some elections that were very close in terms of popular vote seemed like huge victories in terms of electoral votes, some have even lost the popular vote and still won in the electoral college like George Bush in 2000 (even counting Florida, Bush still lost the popular vote, however the results of that election are too distorted to use this as a good example of "winning" the electoral college while losing the popular vote). 


The major flaw in the electoral college is the idea of "wasted votes." Consider a state like New York. Since New York traditionally votes for the Democratic candidate in Presidential elections (it did go for Reagan though twice in the 1980s) only one vote more than the Republican candidate or third party candidate receives is necessary to win the election. To use simple numbers if a Republican gets 1,000 votes in NY, the Democratic candidate only needs 1,001 votes to receive the electoral votes for the whole state. If it turns out 5,000 people voted for that candidate, then most of those votes will be wasted, in the sense that they will not add anything to the chances of the candidate winning the election. Now consider the real life population demographics and the fact that the population of New York overwhelmingly outweighs the populations of so many other states with a few exceptions and it is easy to see why many would criticize this system since the citizens of New York would be under-represented compared to smaller states that would have a disproportionately larger influence in determining elections relative to their population size.


In terms of "electoral systems," or a way of selecting candidates for election, this is known as single-member district (SMD), and all elections in the U.S. are decided this way including for Congress and local government as well. An alternative method is known as proportional representation, where the proportion of votes captured by a political party equates into the proportion of representatives they have in the legislature or Congress. In this system votes are not wasted, to go back to our example, all of the votes cast in New York will then go towards the overall proportion of votes received by a party which would increase the proportion of their party representatives in Congress. However in this system there is less of a personal relationship between members of the legislature and their voters or constituents. The SMD system, since it focuses on a specific person in a specific district tends to establish more of a personal relationship between the candidate and potential voters.

The impeachment process is also explained in Article II as it is in Article I. A president can be impeached or removed from office but it has to follow a precise procedure. The House must formally lay charges against the president, the Senate then becomes like a court where the president is tried. The House brings the charges and acts as prosecutor, but the Senate votes on it and acts as jury. 

There have only been two impeachments in U.S. history against Andrew Johnson after the Civil War for supposedly sabotaging Reconstruction in the South, and Bill Clinton in 1998. However the Senate voted against impeachment and they were not removed from office. 

The primary responsibility of the president is dealing with foreign affairs, and in this area the president has more room to act without the approval of Congress. Notably, the power to "declare war" on another country rests with Congress, yet this is another aspect we do not follow anymore, there has not been a "declared" war since World War II. 

An unwritten role of the President is to be the leader of the civil religion, much in the same way as religions often have a "supreme leader."

The third article deals with the Supreme Court and the Judicial branch which is charged with interpreting the laws of the country in reference to the Constitution. Although not provided in the Constitution this evolved into the power of "judicial review" which gives the court power not only to interpret laws in reference to the Constitution in specific cases, but to strike down or cancel laws which conflict with it. 


The article also separates "original jurisdiction" from "appellate jurisdiction." Original jurisdiction refers to cases that would go directly to the Supreme Court. They are fairly few mostly affecting cases involving foreign officials, federal officials, or if the U.S. itself is a party in a case including treason. Most of the time, and most of the famous cases that have come before the court, the court was acting in terms of its appellate jurisdiction or appeal. People appeal to the Supreme Court after they have gone through lower courts, although the Supreme Court can choose not to hear a case. Most crimes are under the jurisdiction of the state court, including the most serious crime murder. If you kill someone you will most likely be tried by the state not the federal government, unless you kill a federal official. However the Supreme Court does have the power to override the decisions of lower courts.

The remaining articles deal with the relationship between the federal government and the states, the process of adding amendments to the Constitution, and the process of ratifying or approving the Constitution. Following that is a list of the Bill of Rights and the other amendments to the Constitution. We will talk about the Bill of Rights more next class. Article IV deals with some of the rights of the states and their relation to the government. The U.S. government is set up as a federal system, this means there is a division of power between the U.S. government, the state governments, as well as local municipal government. These different levels of government also follow the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial division of power. The American political system is very complex because of this. Many states like France, the United Kingdom, and Japan have unitary states meaning there is one government authority and all local officials are usually appointed by higher officials. Germany has a federal system, although it is only made up of 16 states instead of the 50 states now in the U.S. (originally 13 of course). India is also a federal system made up of 28 states and 7 "union territories" directly administered by the federal government. Russia is a federal state made up of 83 different units. A federal system is most common in countries where there is either a lot of ethnic division like in Russia or India or smaller autonomous states are now part of the unified federal state like in the case of the U.S. or Germany.


There is a controversial passage in Article IV that protects slavery: "No person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law of Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due." There is also a clause in Article 1 Section 2 that refers to counting slaves as 3/5 of a person for determining representatives and taxes. 


There was a small controversy over this when in early 2011 the new Republican majority House of Representatives began their session by reading out the Constitution, however they omitted these controversial passages. How would you interpret something like that? What is the meaning of reading out the Constitution word-for-word except to symbolically show that they are adhering to the "true principles" of the Constitution and implying that the country has lost its way perhaps. Yet does it not defeat the purpose when it seems that they are not willing to confront the "bad" aspects of the American past, in effect by basically censoring aspects of American history that do not fit into the idealized vision of American history that conservatives tend to put forward? It undermines the whole idea that they are trying to return to the "true" America, when their idea of truth is so selective and sanitized, or at least they are unfamiliar with the saying, "the truth hurts." This has serious consequences considering that many believe that it was the failure to discuss slavery candidly and honestly in a system supposedly based on discussion and debate that eventually led to the breakdown of the system and the Civil War (the word "slave" or "slavery" is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution). There are those who believe the Civil War would have happened earlier if they did have this honest discussion, and there were those who were willing to have this discussion even back then but who were outside the political system, however, if anything these kinds of "oversights" today are suggestive of a failure to learn the lessons of history more than anything else. 

After the Convention had completed its work, copies of the Constitution were circulated throughout the states. People in the states elected delegates to serve on state conventions to ratify the Constitution. The first state to ratify was Delaware in late 1787, New Hampshire was the decisive ninth state to ratify in June 1788. Nine states out of thirteen provided the 2/3 majority needed to ratify the Constitution. Two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island did not ratify the Constitution till after George Washington was elected president. The system of government established officially went into effect March 4th, 1789. Washington was inaugurated as president April 30th, 1789, the only president to be unanimously elected (both terms).


 Next we will look more at the Federalist Papers.





9/20 The Constitution and the Federalist (Part 2)


 Supporters of the Constitution began to refer to themselves as "federalists" for the support of the federal system of government. Opponents who favored more power to the states and wanted to keep the federal government weak were referred to as "anti-federalists." 

In order to persuade the public to support the Constitution several of the leading "federalists" James Madison (1751-1836) who would become the 4th President of the U.S., Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), and John Jay (1745-1829) published articles under the pseudonym, or pen-name, Publius. As I have said with ideology, these articles attempted to interpret events of the day: in this case that the Constitutional Convention has produced a document that is "good" for the people to approve of and should be ratified. 

The articles were published first in New York newspapers but then reprinted throughout the country. They were intended to persuade a large segment of the public to adopt certain values or even to act in a certain way. They have been collected in book form and are referred to as The Federalist Papers or more simply The Federalist and are still considered the definitive interpretation of the Constitution.

Federalist No. 10 for example is important because it lays out the theoretical framework that underlies the current system of government. Madison makes it clear that the purposes of the federal government, or the Union, the union of all the states is beneficial because it will best control the effects of "factions." Today we would call them "special interests" but the meaning is the same. Sometimes, people seem to think that the U.S. government was founded by moral idealists but on the contrary the founders seemed to have a very pessimistic view of human conduct. Madison cautions that you cannot even deal with the "causes" of faction because to do that would very likely violate our liberties but can only control the "effects" of faction, as he says:

James Madison
The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man, and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation and practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good (pp. 92-93).
In fact, it may only be contemporary liberals who are guilty of being too idealistic and sound almost naive when they act surprised that there is so much partisanship or factional conflict in politics today, like for example on taxes. Madison seems much more aware of this: 
The appointment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pocket (p. 93).

However the greatest danger from factions, Madison thought were "majority factions" (i.e. the poor). Madison is confident that a minority faction can be handled by the mechanisms of popular government, although he assumes people would actually do something and not just sit back passively if a minority was trying to take control or "usurp" authority. Majority factions however have spelt doom for democratic governments since ancient times Madison argues. He believes that the Constitution contains the "cure" for the democratic "disease." He singles out two aspects: representative government and the large size of the state. He identifies these as the major difference between "republican" and "democratic" government. Democracy was kind of a dirty word for many of the founders and they preferred "republic" (Latin for "the people's business") instead. The point he is trying to make is that he believes that voting for representatives from among the "wise property owners" would add stability to the government. 


In a reversal of ancient political philosophy: he argues the large size of the republic is more stable than a smaller democracy which must remain close to the local people. His arguments for size are: 



a) The more people there are in the country the more chance competent and capable people will be found for office where you are more limited in choices in a smaller community. 

b) And that in a larger population it will be harder to fool all the people. 

c) He also argues that a larger population makes it harder for factions to dominate, as he says: "Extend the sphere and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other" (p. 95). 

But again it must be stressed that the primary fear of the "wise property owners" was the faction of the poor, and suggests a dimension of class conflict that is normally not acknowledged: "A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State" (p. 96).

In No.s 39 and 48 he outlines some of the principles of the federal system and when it impacts the states (federal) and when it will impact the people directly (national) and outlines the importance of "separation of powers" and the dangers of legislative tyranny if too much power is concentrated in one branch of government.


In No. 51 he again outlines the dangers of factions and again suggests that the diversity of society will reduce the influence of factions. This is called "pluralism" today and is still dominant in American politics:

Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of the individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority. In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of the country and number of people comprehended under the same government (p. 105).

The last selection from Madison's letters deals with the infamous 3/5 compromise in the Constitution. Since the number of people in your state influences the number of representatives your state gets, Southern politicians hypocritically thought to count slaves as people in order to increase their representation without of course granting any political rights to slaves. Northerners, hardly more moral, objected that slaves are property not people. The "rational" compromise was to count slaves as 3/5 of a person.



85 articles were written altogether. Madison wrote 29, Hamilton wrote 51 (Jay wrote five and is hardly mentioned).

Four of Hamilton’s articles are included: no.’s 15, 21, 23, 78
Alexander Hamilton
No.s 15, 21, 23 are focused on pointing out the weaknesses of the present government under the articles of Confederation, and advocating the stronger national government, or in Hamilton’s terms, "energetic government," that is designed in the Constitution.

No. 78 is an early defense of the principle of "judicial review" which gives power to the Supreme Court to strike down laws or other actions that contradicts the Constitution

What were the flaws of the government under the Articles of Confederation that Hamilton was specifically concerned with? Why was a strong national government the solution to the problems that Hamilton saw? Consider the following quote by Hamilton from no. 15, “Power controlled or abridged is almost always the rival and enemy of that power by which it is controlled or abridged” (p. 112), another way of stating the idea of checks and balances, power checks power.

In Federalist 23, Hamilton says this about the Union, the term used to describe the national government as representing all the states together: “The principal purposes to be answered by union are these--the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace, as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries” (p. 116).

Hamilton defines four purposes for the union, what are they and how is the union supposed to make good on its purposes? What are the weaknesses that make the present system of government unable to fulfill these goals?

“Internal convulsions” is most likely a reference to Shay’s Rebellion, an uprising of farmers in Massachusetts in 1786 protesting the high levels of debt they incurred, many of them war veterans, and whose houses were being foreclosed on.

Hamilton was much more comfortable using military force than most of the other founders, even George Washington. Consider this quote also from Federalist 23: 
The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means to which may be necessary to satisfy them [Hamilton’s italics] (p. 116).

In Federalist 78, Hamilton gives his argument for judicial review. He says:
There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid (p. 120).
Also: 
A Constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents (p. 121).

How does this relate back to the idea of separation of powers and checks and balances, which define the American system?

Although Hamilton invokes “the people” to justify the power of the courts over the legislature, the courts were often times used to strike down laws that were seen as hurtful to business interests. Since the legislature was more democratic there were fears that popular interests would pass laws to redistribute wealth or tax profits more.

In current debates the role of courts in protecting moneyed interests against the rest of the population still seems to be strong. One of the most recent examples is the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which critics argue strengthens the influence of money in politics like this editorial from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/opinion/22fri1.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

Next class we will talk about the opposition to the Federalists, and the beginnings of a political party system.

Assignment (Due 9/27): Choose one passage from Federalist 10 and 51 and write out the passage and interpret it, follow the same format as previous assignments. 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

9/6 Power

This will be the first online lecture, we will be in class again next week.

For today's class there were two essays we are going over, "Despite Negativity, Americans Mixed on Ideal Role of Gov't" by Frank Newport published by Gallup Inc., and the essay "Two Faces of Power" by Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz. The essay comes from the American Political Science Review [abbreviated as APSR in the syllabus] the most influential journal in political science. Journals like this publish essays of contemporary scholars in the field (reviewed by other scholars), this particular essay is the most cited article of this journal.

In this essay, Bachrach and Baratz are concerned with analyzing political power. The concept of power is a central concept in political science, but its meaning is elusive. They begin from a previous discussion regarding the nature of power between sociologist C. Wright Mills and Robert Dahl, a leading "pluralist theorist" in political science. Bachrach and Baratz side with Dahl, arguing that Mills sees power in a one-dimensional sense, unlike the theory of pluralism which sees power divided up between different groups. Mills most famous work in this area was The Power Elite first published in 1956 at the height of the Cold War. Mills argued that political power in the U.S. was concentrated among what he called the "power elite" or the close-knit group made up of government bureaucracy, the military, and corporate elites. This view was affirmed by of all people Dwight Eisenhower, Allied Commander during World War II and President of the U.S. during the 1950s, who in his farewell address warned of the "military-industrial complex" which seems to parallel what Mills called the power elite.

The theory of pluralism, which is found in the Constitution, but developed in modern times by theorists like Dahl sees power as divided between different groups and institutions which provide a check and balance on each other. Bachrach and Baratz argue that Mills ignored empirical evidence which demonstrates that multiple groups are able to exercise some power over each other, power is defined as influence in the law-making process or decisions made by the government. Dahl's work shows the division of power between local communities in his book Who Governs? published a few years after Mills in 1961. However Dahl limits his research to the local community but Mills is analyzing the highest levels of political power.

Bachrach and Baratz still side with Dahl over Mills, but they argue that Dahl is also one-dimensional because he limits his definition of power to influence over important decisions. They call this the first face of power, but the second face of power has to take into consideration what they call the "institutionalization of bias" but is now generally referred to as "agenda-setting." To set the agenda means to determine what is considered an important issue and what are the appropriate choices for dealing with the issue. In other words, Dahl looks at the choices that people make in a political setting that sets limits on choices or decisions that can be made, but Bachrach and Baratz want to see who influences the limits of the choices that people can make and why some choices are available over others. To influence what is considered an important issue is one example of this whether it is the environment, drugs, abortion, or gay rights, before the 1970s these issues were not significantly debated in national politics. Another example could be the limited choices given by the Democratic and Republican parties both of whom are rated very low in terms of public opinion.

This idea was further expanded on by sociologist Steven Lukes who argued there are actually "three dimensions of power": the first being decisions (Dahl), the second is agenda-setting (Bachrach and Baratz), and the third is power over values or social norms. Lukes argues it is ultimately what people consider to be right or wrong, or normal, that will influence what choices are available and what decisions are made.

In political science one way of trying to interpret and measure political values is to conduct public opinion polls. A small sampling of a few thousand people are given a questionnaire to fill out, the results of which are combined and calculated in a way that is believed to reflect the general attitude of the entire population. Modern public opinion polls were created by George Gallup in the 1930s who also founded the organization that bears his name, still generally considered the most influential company that conducts these polls.

The results of this poll and short commentary reflect the generally negative opinions that Americans have towards the government. In terms of the three dimensions of power you can argue this establishes a chain linking agenda-setting and decision making. Negative attitudes towards the government would mean that choices for government action will be limited and that groups favoring more government intervention will have a harder time in the political process. Overall the poll shows that people are distrustful of the government but are also skeptical of taking away too much government power. In terms of political parties, when a party is in power they clearly support more government intervention, than when they are out of power and reverse their opinion on government intervention.

Assignment Due 9/13: For the first assignment which you will post on your blog choose a specific passage from either of today's readings. Write out the passage, then underneath write a short paragraph explaining the meaning of the passage you chose. Under that write another paragraph explaining what made you choose this passage and why you think it is important. This will be the format for all the assignments posted on the blog.

Next week we will be in class, please bring to class the essays by Bourne and Chesterton. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!















Tuesday, December 10, 2013

12/10 Post-War Liberalism to the Present


 The modern welfare state created by the progressive reformers took shape over several decades. 

Franklin Roosevelt is sometimes considered the first "modern" president because of the massive expansion in the power and the capabilities of the state under his administration. Although other Cabinet departments had been added to the government such as the Department of Agriculture created by Lincoln, the Department of Commerce in 1903, and the Department of Labor created during the Wilson administration, Roosevelt drastically increased the power of the president by enlarging the personal staff of the president at the expense of the Cabinet departments.


When Roosevelt ran for president, he was the Governor of New York (Herbert H. Lehman, Roosevelt's Lieutenant, was then elected Governor of New York in 1932, Lehman is who the college is named after––somewhat more infamously now, also one of the Lehman Brothers formerly of Wall St.) Roosevelt advertised what he called his "Brain Trust" a collection of university-trained intellectuals who analyzed data, did research, and created the policies that became known as the "New Deal." 

In 1939, on its second attempt, The Reorganization Act is passed y Congress. This gives Roosevelt the power to create additional federal offices. 

Once the president was given the authority by Congress, Roosevelt created several new offices within the executive staff, the Executive Office of the President (EOP) that forms the foundation of the modern White House Office (WHO) today. The executive office is headed by the Chief of Staff who runs the day to day affairs of the president and in many cases controls access to the president. Also, an earlier version of today's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was created to oversee the expenses of the executive branch in the budget, as well as earlier versions of the National Security Council (1947) and the Council of Economic Advisors (1946). 

In all of these cases, offices were to be staffed with scientifically trained intellectuals overseeing the complex functions of the government. All of these offices, along with the office of the Vice-President, are "Cabinet-level," equal with Cabinet departments, and again, in many cases the presidents have come to rely on the advisors in the EOP more than the Cabinet. Since then, even more executive offices have been created like the Office of the Trade Representative (1962); Office of Environmental Quality (1969); and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (1989), as well as others.




The 22nd Amendment was introduced in 1947 and ratified in 1951, explicitly limiting the number of terms a president could serve to two–or a maximum of 10 years if they assumed office as a Vice-President. In between this time, the Republican Party once again came to dominance which culminated the following year when Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), the Allied Commander during World War II, was elected President. Despite briefly winning Congress in 1952 when Eisenhower is elected, by 1954 Congress was still in Democratic control again, and would remain so for decades. 

The major issue of the election was foreign affairs, specifically the threat of Soviet Communism. During World War II, U.S. propaganda referred to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as "Uncle Joe" when the Russians were allies against the Germans. After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, a new conflict emerged between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over the fate of Germany and the rest of Europe. By the end of the 1940s, the conflict had extended throughout the world. It is after this period of time that the U.S. begins to transition into the role of global superpower, a reversal of its traditional non-interventionist, or isolationist, position throughout most of its history dating back to George Washington's administration. The shape and design of many international institutions today are clearly influenced by the U.S. political system, as is the still vague notion of "international law." This has created impressive new challenges to balance the requirements of democratic government with the sensitive nature of geopolitical affairs. In many regards the demands of specialized technical knowledge has only increased the distance between the government and the public.

The most traditional role the President has had is dealing with foreign nations especially including the command of the military. In the post-war era, the office of the Presidency was reformulated into the role of maintaining global order.


After the war, Germany was divided up between the allied powers before being finally separated into East and West Germany in 1949. The period between 1945 and 1949 is a strange period of time because it is a lull in between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union which continued on and off until the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. During these four years the U.S. and Soviets were unlikely allies who slowly became bitter enemies. The Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949, ending a brief four year dominance of when the U.S. was the sole nuclear power in the world, after becoming the first, and so far only, country to use atomic weapons in war in 1945 against Japan.

In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong defeated the opposition led by Chiang Kai-shek, whose defeated Kuomintang party was forced to flee to the isle of Formosa, now known as Taiwan, an island claimed by the communists on the mainland as well. This conflict is still unresolved today. Republicans in the United States attacked Democrats for their perceived weakness towards the Soviet Union and blamed them for "losing China to communism" something they swore would not happen again.

 In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korean (supported by China and the Soviets) forces overran the South. The U.S. intervened. This was the first war the U.S. fought since World War II. The war turned into a stalemate, after China and the United States both entered the war against each other. The inability to resolve this conflict also contributed to the Democrats defeat. In 1953, under Eisenhower, a ceasefire was signed, today North and South Korea are still separate. 3-4 million North and South Koreans are estimated to have been killed and approximately 1 million Chinese soldiers.

This was a preview of what became known as "proxy war" where conflicts between the U.S. and Soviet Union would not be fought directly between the two but through "allied" countries. 

During World War II, Japan had conquered the colonial empires of the British and the French in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. This had the unintended consequence of creating nationalist movements in these countries that fought, first, the Japanese and then later the remnants of the European colonial empires. The most important French colony was the province of Indochina. France continued to claim a right to rule this territory after the war which it tried to enforce until 1954 when the communist forces in Indochina under Ho Chi Minh defeated the French, leading to the province being split into different countries: Cambodia, Laos, and most notably North and South Vietnam. The French appealed to the U.S. for assistance who filled the void of the departing French. Ho Chi Minh also appealed earlier to the U.S. writing several letters to then President Truman (1945-1953), invoking The Declaration of Independence as a model for what the Vietnamese were trying to accomplish in their own country. Truman never responded. The U.S. tried to support the capitalist South Vietnamese government, until 1963, when the CIA ordered their own puppet leader of South Vietnam to be overthrown and killed. This signaled the direct take over of the war effort by the U.S. (only 20 days later U.S. President John F. Kennedy was also assassinated in Dallas, Texas).

Kennedy represented to many, the kind of "New Americans" that were taking shape in a new United States, one that had now undoubtedly become a superpower that had tremendous influence across the world. By 1890, the U.S. had already become the dominant economic power in the world with more wealth than Great Britain, Russia, and Germany combined, but it took almost another fifty years until the U.S. became the dominant military power in the world as well (or arguably the second most powerful after the Soviet Union at that time). JFK was also, like FDR, a very media friendly politician. However, while Roosevelt was still limited to the technology of radio, Kennedy made great use of the television medium. It is around the same time that conservatives start creating the ideology of the "liberal media," to attack the credibility and reliability of the media mostly coming from the Richard Nixon campaign who is running against Kennedy in the 1960 election and is the Vice-President under Eisenhower. Ironically, while many of the arguments against liberal bias are credible, many of the claims made about Nixon turned out to be true, which is often not acknowledged by conservative critics of the media.




In the 1960s, the conservative movement started to reassert itself after its devastating losses in the 1930s and 1940s. What had happened to the Republican Party in the 1930s was similar to the Democratic Party in the 1860s. It became so identified with something so negative (slavery, or causing the Great Depression in this case) that it took literally decades for it to repair the damage to its image. In the 1950s, a Republican president reigned, but Eisenhower had adopted virtually every major program introduced by the New Deal and after, in other words Eisenhower was a very moderate republican and in many ways tended to be liberal especially on domestic policy, in fact it was under Eisenhower the first school desegregations were ordered like in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1954. In 1964, the Republicans ran Arizona Senator, Barry Goldwater against Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), Kennedy's former Vice-President, and someone who modeled himself after FDR, even calling himself LBJ. Johnson won in one of the biggest landslides in American history. 



1964 U.S. Presidential Election

At the time, in American political culture, there was a strong commitment among the public for social welfare policies and programs for the poor. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid were created under the Johnson administration as well as the new Cabinet Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Johnson also presided over the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Along with these landmark legislative acts, the "Civil Rights" Amendments were passed in the Constitution:

  • 23rd Amendment (1961): Allows Washington D.C. to vote for president which previously had no representation in the electoral college.
  • 24th Amendment (1964): Prohibits a poll tax, literally a fee paid to vote used especially in the South.
  • 25th Amendment (1967): Establishes the presidential line-of-succession, like the 20th and 22nd amendments, this amendment reflects the growth of executive power and its importance.
  • 26th Amendment (1971): Passed during the height of the Vietnam War, this amendment lowers the voting age to 18 from 21.

Three of these Constitutional amendments deal with the crucial issue of the right to vote in a democracy which was also the focus of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, electoral laws are mainly decided by the state, and there has recently been a determined effort by many Republican governors of states like Florida to "purge" registered voters from the voting lists and thus take away their right to vote under the pretext of preventing "voter fraud." It might seem strange that a party that claims to be working in the interest of the majority of people would put so much effort into reducing the number of eligible voters, and many liberals have argued this is an attempt to undermine the Voting Rights Act.

After Kennedy's suspicious assassination in late 1963, plans were set in motion to escalate the war in Vietnam beginning in 1964. A fake assault on U.S. naval vessels was used as a justification to escalate the war, which by 1968 had over 500,000 U.S. servicemen in Vietnam. The combined stresses of Johnson's domestic welfare programs and overseas wars began to take its toll on the American economy which began to show signs of inflation.

The United States became the dominant economic power in the world after World War II. At one point it was responsible for almost half of the world's entire industrial output. This was the material basis of the so-called "Baby Boom" generation in the United States, which reaped the full benefits of the U.S. post-war prosperity in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. It is during this period of time the mythical image of the American way of life is created. Often unacknowledged is the super prosperity of the U.S. during this time was primarily because other major industrial powers of the world were rebuilding from World War II. The two most dominant industrial powers besides the U.S. before World War II were Germany and Japan. By the late 1960s and especially in the 1970s, exports from these countries was seriously eroding U.S. economic power. Arguably the U.S. has never recovered from this and has pursued a series of artificial means of preserving itself largely through uncontrolled deficit spending, both public and private.
Trade Statistics 1930-2005
Bureau of Economic Analysis


The public assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, was echoed by Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the brother of John Kennedy, assassinated in April and June 1968.

Robert Kennedy had been the favorite in the upcoming Democratic primary for the election in November. Instead, they nominated pro-war Hubert Humphrey. Republican Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, and re-elected again in 1972, although the illegal tactics used during his re-election, such as Watergate, would lead to his downfall and resignation in 1974, the only president so far to resign in office. 

A major factor was that after 1964, the Democratic party largely lost the Southern vote to Republicans. The Democrats had been a force in the South since the founding of the party in the 1790s. Johnson reportedly remarked as he was signing the Civil Rights Act in 1964, "we have lost the South for a generation." Many have accused Nixon and other Republican presidential candidates as playing to Southern racism without being explicit about it, sometimes called "symbolic racism" or "institutional racism."
1968 U.S. Presidential Election
George Wallace was a segregationist third party candidate


In 1968, Nixon had won the Republican primary against a number of challengers including Ronald Reagan, the Governor of California. After three attempts Reagan would be elected president in 1980, thus signaling a backlash against the values of the 1960s.



The Reagan administration was defined by the phrase "government is the problem" and tried to remove all government regulation of businesses. Despite this, the budget deficit of the federal government continued to grow through the decade, along with an increasing trade deficit als growing rapidly since the 1970s, and despite Reagan' promises to tackle the "twin deficits." 

The budget deficit grew largely because of a combination of increased military spending and significant tax cuts given to the highest income brackets in the country. Reagan was later forced to reverse many of these tax cuts and ended up raising taxes several times.  Much of the increased military spending was used to finance covert wars in Latin America and the Middle East, but also to "outspend" the Russians on defense, a process that some commentators believe helped pushed the Soviet Union into its final downward spiral into dissolution.

During this period of time a book entitled The Wise Men (1986) was published chronicling the events of several of the most influential political operatives in foreign policy (the term wise men of course also has religious significance). It followed the careers of six men: W. Averell Harriman, Robert A. Lovett, William Bohlen, George Kennan, John J. McCloy, and Dean Acheson. The authors spend the majority of the book convincing their readers that these men were non-ideological, bipartisan, in short "above the biases" of conflicts that normally characterize politics. 

However, the notion that they were above ideology seems strange when it is so obvious how militantly anti-communist these men were. Harriman, McCloy, and Lovett all had connections with Nazis stemming from before World War II. These men helped create the "containment" strategy that was invoked in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the coups or attempts at a coup in several countries including: Iran, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Colombia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and of course Cuba (and many other states). Several other men were not included in the circle of wise men even though they had the same background, like John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower, and his brother Allen Dulles, director of the CIA until the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. Both so directly involved in overthrowing foreign governments and assassinations that including them as "wise men" would probably be too controversial. Another notable omission is James Forrestal, the last Secretary of Navy before the Navy and War departments were combined into the new Department of Defense after World War II, and became the first Secretary of Defense. Forrestal another militant anti-communist who was became increasingly paranoid later committed suicide in 1949, something covered up at the time.

It is reasonable to question how appropriate it is to call someone wise when they were unable to foresee that the consequences of establishing brutal and corrupt "puppet dictators" who oppressed their own people would one day come back to haunt the U.S. The term used for this by intelligence operatives is "blowback," and the most famous example could be the Iranian revolution in 1978-79 which began after enduring 25 years of the tyrannical Shah of Iran after a U.S. sponsored coup in 1953. Although many of these men were too old to play a direct role in the late 1970s and beyond, these same ideas were put into effect to train and fund men like Osama Bin Laden to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein to fight Iran in the 1980s. Most Americans are not even aware of the huge death tolls as a result of U.S. wars in Southeast Asia, according to some estimates, almost 4 million Vietnamese killed and maybe more than 2 million neighboring Cambodians and Laotians. Between half a million to a million Indonesians were killed in another U.S. supported coup running parallel with the Vietnam war in 1967. If you add in the death toll number from the Korean War which, then you have approximately 12 million Asians killed between 1950-1980, or roughly twice as many as the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis from 1942-1945 and about the same number overall of all the people who died in the Holocaust (our country did not do it as quickly as the Nazis did).

To label people as ruthless and dogmatic as this wise is not so shocking. In the 1980s especially there was a strong tendency to mythologize the American way of life in what can be seen as an attempt to break away from the terrible legacy of the Vietnam War and a stagnant economy since the late 1960s, aided greatly by the ever-developing mass media industries which recreates history when the moment calls for it.



The trade deficit continued to grow in the face of competition from Germany and Japan after the 1960s, and the inability of major U.S. corporations like General Motors to adapt and innovate their product designs, as well as decreasing quality in the automobiles, compounded by multiple Arab oil embargoes in 1973 and 1979. Despite advances in several high-tech U.S. industries revolving around the emerging computer industry in the 1980s, the U.S.'s overall trade deficit continues to rise even today. This did not prevent President Reagan from winning the largest landslide in American history, over a very anemic and weak Democratic party, still haunted by its past. Despite this, the House of Representatives maintained a Democratic majority throughout the entire Reagan administration. The Senate was recaptured for the first time in 30 years by the Republicans in 1980, but reverted back to Democratic control in 1986 after numerous scandals during the Reagan administration. It was not until 1994 when Republicans were able to take both houses of Congress and hold on to them for more than one election.
1984 U.S. Presidential Election

The U.S. economy grew during the Reagan administration, but the distribution of the wealth is concentrated in fewer hands. Poverty increased during the Reagan administration at the same time in which scandals emerged over Reagan's administration misallocating funds for the poor (literally stealing from the poor to give to the rich). Many commentators pronounced the return of the "Gilded Age." On the other side, Democratic opponents of Republicans usually point to the Post-War Liberal era as the time of greatest productivity in the U.S. and favor policies that attempt  to bring back the New Deal.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
The chart is meant to show that even though economic productivity increased in the 1980s, the actual wages of working people did not keep pace with this change. Also, that productivity was greater during the social welfare period of the New Deal and that wages and incomes raised in proportion with the increase in productivity

In 2008 the biggest stock market crash since the Great Depression occurred resulting from financial speculation in the U.S. housing markets. This was in large part a result of the "deregulation" of the financial industry beginning in the 1980s, overturning laws established in the 1930. Unlike the Great Depression which began in the middle of a Republican administration and helped to discredit the Republicans for more than 40 years, this one exploded, or was timed to explode, shortly before a presidential election, the 2008 election which saw the election of Barack Obama. 
2008 U.S. Presidential Election
"Battleground" states are states that do not have either a solid Republican or Democratic majority
In many regards the divisions into North and South regions still exists
President Obama has so far tried to adhere to a "consensus" approach to politics which has so far produced mixed results at best. Much like Jefferson, another controversial figure of his time, appeals to the unity between Federalists and Republicans, Obama has in many of his speeches appealed to common sentiments between Democrats and Republicans. However, unlike Jefferson whose party came to dominate politics in America, the Obama administration has not had a clear majority in Congress and has had great difficulty in getting legislation passed. This is a function of the system of checks and balances as intended in the Constitution, but as critics have pointed out, often this system creates paralysis in government.

After the election of 2012, however it appears that President may have more leverage to put through his policies even though the House of Representatives still has a Republican majority. Note also the similarities between the election results of the previous election, and the changes in certain "battleground states."



Obama, for obvious ideological reasons, seeks to portray himself in the lineage of Jefferson and Lincoln. Obama addresses the issue of race in a way Lincoln never could by drawing upon his own experiences with racism, especially as a child of mixed race who has insight into the attitudes of whites and blacks. His association with black radicals like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has also pushed the president to defend the legitimate anger and resentment many African-Americans feel towards a system of government which has often failed to meet their needs.

As most Democrats look to the New Deal era of FDR and LBJ as the high-point of the Democratic party in the modern era, he has tried to expand upon these policies. Most notably, healthcare which Roosevelt stipulated was a right, and advanced by Johnson who established Medicare and Medicaid. 




The current president has also kept in place the coercive and intelligence apparatus created during the Bush administration to fight the "war on terror." So far nothing as radical as the programs set up in the 1930s has been attempted. Obviously however the circumstances in which they find themselves has changed drastically, Roosevelt for example could still count upon "the solid South" to support Democratic policies and a strong majority in Congress.





Assignment: Due 12/17 Choose a passage from JFK, Reagan, or Obama, write it out and explain what it means.

I hope you all enjoyed the class. Thank you for your participation and your blog entries which were very interesting to read. The final exam will be posted on Blackboard 12/17. It will be an essay exam like the midterm.