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During the semester, I shall post course material and students will comment on it. Students are also free to comment on any aspect of American politics, either current or historical. There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges. This blog is on the open Internet, so post nothing that you would not want a potential employer to see.

The course syllabus is at:

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Shadow of Waco by Retro Report







This video from Retro Report details the impact of the infamous 1993 standoff between the Branch Davidians and the Federal Government that occurred in Waco, Texas. This incident corresponds to the rise of militias in the late twentieth century. The topic touches on the idea that Americans uniquely view government as a threat, a theme we discussed earlier in class.

Constitutionalism






Federalist v. Anti-Federalist
Antifederalist 1: "This government is to possess absolute and uncontroulable power, legislative, executive and judicial ..."

Ron Chernow's biography undercuts the notion that Alexander Hamilton was a well-born defender of privilege. Here is the passage that inspired the musical:
Let us pause briefly to tally the grim catalog of disasters that had befallen these two boys between 1765 and 1769: their father had vanished, their mother had died, their cousin and supposed protector had committed bloody suicide, and their aunt, uncle, and grandmother had all died. James, 16, and Alexander, 14, were now left alone, largely friendless and penniless. At every step in their rootless, topsy-turvy existence, they had been surrounded by failed, broken, embittered people. Their short lives had been shadowed by a stupefying sequence of bankruptcies, marital separations, deaths, scandals, and disinheritance. Such repeated shocks must have stripped Alexander Hamilton of any sense that life was fair, that he existed in a benign universe, or that he could ever count on help from anyone. That this abominable childhood produced such a strong, productive, self-reliant human being -- that this fatherless adolescent could have ended up a founding father of a country he had not yet even seen -- seems little short of miraculous.
Federalist 1:

[A]dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

The same point, in language that you will recognize.

Concerns of war, peace, and security
Controlling power

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Donald Trump and his supporters feud with professional sports teams...

Trump's comments about players protesting: http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/24/politics/donald-trump-nfl-sunday-protest-response/index.html

NFL teams react to Trump's comments about players protesting: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-week-3-national-anthem-protests-how-teams-rebuked-donald-trump-on-sunday/

Trump never served his war "duty": http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/290105-trump-got-five-draft-deferments-during-vietnam

Trump and his feud with the Warriors regarding the white house visit: https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/lebron-calls-trump-a-bum-other-nba-players-react-after-warriors-rescinded-invite/

Nascar owners say they will fire those who protest the anthem: http://www.totalprosports.com/2017/09/24/nascar-owners-threaten-to-fire-drivers-crew-members-who-protest-national-anthem/

Penguins will visit the white house: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-nfl-week-3-live-updates-president-trump-boasts-stanley-cup-1506280594-htmlstory.html

Questions to consider.

Differences in response to protesting by sports. The reason(s) why people are upset about the protest and the reasons why everyone returns to the idea of kneeling goes against everything our troops have done.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tocqueville and America 2017


The Majority:  "I know no country, in which, speaking generally, there is less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion than in America (Tocqueville, 254-255).

A recent survey of college students concerning free speech.

From Tocqueville, pp 291-292:

In Europe almost all the disorders of society are born around the domestic hearth and not far from the nuptial bed. It is there that men come to feel scorn for natural ties and legitimate pleasures and develop a taste for disorder, restlessness of spirit, and instability of desires. Shaken by the tumultuous passions which have often troubled his own house, the European finds it hard to submit to the authority of the state's legislators. When the American returns from the turmoil of politics to the bosom of the family, he immediately finds a perfect picture of order and peace. There all his pleasures are simple and natural and his joys innocent and quiet, and as the regularity of life brings him happiness, he easily forms the habit of regulating his opinions as well as his tastes.
Whereas the European tries to escape his sorrows at home by troubling society, the American derives from his home that love of order which he carries over affairs of state.
In the United States it is not only mores that are controlled by religion, but its sway extends even over reason.
Tocqueville on how slavery degrades slave0wners (347):
The white man on the right bank, forced to live by his own endeavors, has made material well being the main object of his existence; as he lives in a country offering inexhaustible resources to his industry and continual inducements to activity, his eagerness to possess things goes beyond the ordinary limits of human cupidity; tormented by a longing for wealth, he boldly follows every path to fortune that is open to him; he is equally prepared to turn into a sailor, pioneer, artisan, or cultivator; there is something wonderful in his resourcefulness and a sort of heroism in his greed for gain.

The American on the left bank scorns not only work itself but also enterprises in which work is necessary to success; living in idle ease, he has the tastes of idle men; money has lost some of its value in his eyes; he is less interested in wealth than in excitement and pleasure and expends in that direction the energy which his neighbor puts to other use; he is passionately fond of hunting and war; he enjoys all the most strenuous forms of bodily exercise; he is accustomed to the use of weapons and from childhood has been ready to risk his life in single combat.

A famous prophecy: Tocqueville concludes volume I (p. 413) by comparing the United States and Russia:  "Their point of departure is different and their paths diverse; nevertheless, each seems called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world."

What Tocqueville did not foresee:  immigration from Asia and the Americas.

"They bring crime..."

Economic Benefits of Refugees

I thought that this article from the NYT was interesting when comparing it to our reading about immigration from Pew Research. While the "Department of Health and Human Services[..] found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost," the Trump administration rejected the findings of this study, citing political bias. These results are especially relevant when considering that, according to the Pew Research, 50% of Americans believe that immigrants negatively affect the US economy. Considering that Pew's research was done in 2015, it would be interesting to see how their predictions for our population's racial/ethnic makeup would change when considering Trump's proposed restrictions on immigration.