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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:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Constitutionalism I



(Literary license here: Hamilton did not actually ask Burr to collaborate on The 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 a passage summing up what the born-out-of-wedlock Hamilton and his brother faced in their youth:
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
Federalist v. Anti-Federalist

Truz Endorses Trump

In lieu of our conversation from Wednesday, Ted Cruz has finally given in to the pressure: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/24/us/politics/ted-cruz-donald-trump.html?_r=0.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tocqueville's America, and Ours


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.
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).

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..."


Monday, September 19, 2016

Jeb!

American Civic Culture

Who was Tocqueville?
Civic Culture
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 cause of 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.



*Make sure to read the article, as it ties the videos together!
What do you think about this web of rap, activism, and political issues oft associated with minority communities? Who is to blame if non-politicians get an issue wrong?