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About this Blog

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 22, 2014

The Constitution: A First Cut

If you like Amar's book, you can watch him talk about it on video here.
Read these provisions from an actual constitution. How would you appraise them?
ARTICLE 118. Citizens have the right to work, that is, are guaranteed the right to employment and payment for their work in accordance with its quantity and quality. ...

ARTICLE 119. Citizens have the right to rest and leisure. The right to rest and leisure is ensured by the reduction of the working day to seven hours for the overwhelming majority of the workers, the institution of annual vacations with full pay for workers and employees and the provision of a wide network of sanatoria, rest homes and clubs for the accommodation of the working people.

ARTICLE 120. Citizens have the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work. This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service for the working people and the provision of a wide network of health resorts for the use of the working people.

ARTICLE 121. Citizens have the right to education. This right is ensured by universal, compulsory elementary education; by education, including higher education, being free of charge; by the system of state stipends for the overwhelming majority of students in the universities and colleges; by instruction in schools being conducted in the native language...

ARTICLE 122. Women are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life. The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured to women by granting them an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by state protection of the interests of mother and child, prematernity and maternity leave with full pay, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.

ARTICLE 123. Equality of rights of citizens irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.

ARTICLE 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church. ...

ARTICLE 128. The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.
Contrast the US Constitution with the Confederate Constitution.

Can't get enough?  A wonderful lecture by Yale history professor Joanne Freeman (Pomona `84):

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Green Activists Take NY

I'm a sucker for a good protest, so I thought I would share this story. Green groups took a stand today in New York City with an overwhelming show of support for green initiatives. Both Tom Steyer and Sierra Club Executive Directer Michael Brune were in attendance. I applaud their amazing turnout and accessibility to the public. Here is the story on Politico.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Page Limits, Amendments

In case your are looking for loopholes in the page limits, read this article. (h/t Jessica Floyd)

For those of you writing on proposed constitutional amendments, the Pew Research Center has a short item that may be of use (click the link for text of full article)

constitutional amendments that fail to pass

Civil Religion and the Majority

Civil Religion

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came. 
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the causeof the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." 
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
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).

Religion. Service, and Public Spirit
  • American democracy: "Under its sway it is not especially the things accomplished by the public administration that are great, but rather those things done without its help and beyond its sphere" (p. 244)
  • "Self-interest properly understood" (Tocqueville 525-530).  We shall return to this point when we discuss political parties.
  • Where people volunteer
  • Where people give 

Texas Textbook Debacle

Hello everyone,

I thought the issue about textbooks in Texas was an interesting debate happening in the news this week that also relates to the creationism vs. evolutionism debate as well as to very basic principles like freedom.. In short the new textbooks proposed for Texas public schools contain a right-wing agenda which blurs the line between church and state, down plays the roles of African Americans and Native Americans, incorrectly portrays the issue of global warming... etc. Here is Washington Post's take on the issues, Politico's and Dallas Morning News's. I'm a little torn on how to feel. I don't think that Texas should use these textbooks, but I certainly understand the arguments about why they should be allowed to- namely I believe parents should be able to teach their children mostly whatever they want. (I might think it's wrong, or a moral hazard, but I think that they have the right to do it) I however think public institutions should be required to teach an objective portrayal of history. Any other opinions?


Monday, September 15, 2014

Civic Culture


Who was Tocqueville?
Civic Culture

Civil Religion

Friday, September 12, 2014

First Writing Assignment, Fall 2014

Pick one of the following:

1. Find a recent (since June 2014) article pointing to a problem that Publius anticipated. (You may search newspapers at Explain how The Federalist sheds light on the story. In this instance, is the political system working as the Founders hoped?

2. Identify a significant claim by Tocqueville that was either incorrect from the start or no longer applies to the United States.

3. Here are some current proposed amendments to the United States Constitution. Pick one, weigh the arguments for and against, and explain your position.
  • Whichever essay you choose, do research to document your claims. Do not write from the top of your head.  
  • Essays should be typed, double-spaced, and no more than three pages long. I will not read past the third page. 
  • Cite your sources with endnotes, which should be in a standard style (e.g., Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style). Endnote pages do not count against the page limit. 
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. 
  • Turn in essays to the class Sakai dropbox by 11:59 PM, Wednesday, September 24. Late essays will drop a gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a full letter grade after that. I will grant no extensions except for illness or emergency.