The Weiner Component #169 – Part 2: The Presidencies & Political Parties in the United States

English: Partisan makeup of the Senate at the ...

English: Partisan makeup of the Senate at the beginning of the 107th United States Congress, January 3, 2001. Democratic Party – 50 Republican Party – 50 Tie broken by the Vice President of the United States (Al Gore to 2001-01-20, Dick Cheney thereafter) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

If you draw a horizontal line across a sheet of paper and put a mark in the center then the right side proceeding to the end of the line tends to be conservative getting more reactionary as you move farther toward the right end and the left side tends to be liberal, getting more radical as it moves to the left end.  Today the left side represents the Democratic Party and the right side is the Republican Party.

 

This model of right and left was initially created by the way the Chamber of Deputies placed themselves in the hall during the period of the French Revolution in late 18th Century.   The difference then was that the legislative body was divided into three groups, the right were the reactionaries who wanted to bring back the king and his form of government; the left were the radicals who wanted to get rid of the king and brought about the “Reign of Terror.”  They wanted a representative government, essentially led by a dictator.  The majority of the Chamber was called the Mountain.  It was the center which contained the majority of delegates.  They were the moderates.  France would eventually become a Representative Democracy.

 

Today in the United States legislature there is no center.  We have a right, the Republicans and a left side, the Democrats.  And between the two major groups, in the center, there is an empty space, which, in turn, makes it difficult for any type of compromise to be reached or even for any real communication to occur.  As far as the far right is concerned compromise is giving in to their position.

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In 1797, when the Constitution was written, there were no thoughts of political parties.  By 1789, when it took effect, Alexander Hamilton, the First Secretary of the Treasury, had organized the Federalist Party, which basically supported the tidewater mercantilist groups rather than inland yeoman farmers.  Thomas Jefferson, who supported the latter group at the very tail end of the 18th Century organized the Republican Party as a solution to the Federalists and ran as its first candidate for the presidency in the year 1800.  The Federalists, as an insult, rechristened it as the Democratic-Republican Party.  This first name has stuck through the years and is still used today.  The Presidential campaign in the year 1800 was a very raucous one with Jefferson being denounced, among other things, as an atheist.

 

Jefferson won the election and the Federalists were never again able to win a Presidential Election.  They ceased to exist as a political party after the War of 1812.  In that war with England they had refused to support the government against Great Britain.

 

President Thomas Jefferson, following his philosophy of leading a country of small yeoman farmers, in 1803 bought the Louisiana Territory from France for $11,250,000, adding 828,000 square miles to the new United States and doubling its size.  He calculated that he had added enough land to allow it to freely grow with small farms for at least one hundred years.

 

The Federalist position had been favoring a strong central government, close ties with Great Britain, a centralized banking system and close links between the government and men of wealth.

 

What followed after the War of 1812 was the Era of Good Feelings which ended in 1824 when John Quincy Adams was appointed to the Presidency by the House of Representatives after an election in which none of the four regional candidates achieved enough of a majority to win the election.

 

In 1828 the Democratic-Republican Party split into Jacksonian Democrats and the Whig Party.  The Jacksonian Democratic Party became the modern Democratic Party.  They supported the primacy of the President over the other branches of government.  The Whig Party advocated the primacy of Congress over the executive branch.  In the 1850s the Whig Party declined.  Its leaders had died out and it split over the issue of slavery.  The Democratic Party also split into two section, Northern and Southern, anti-slave and pro-slave.

 

In the Election of 1860 the remnants of the Whig Party and remnants of other third parties like the Abolitionists and other dissatisfied groups coalesced into the new Republican Party while the Democrats split into two separate political parties, one Northern and Western and one Southern.  The Northern Democrats ran Stephen A. Douglas while the Southern Democrats put forth John C. Breckenridge.

 

Douglas and Breckenridge had over 50% of the vote together but neither one had as much as Lincoln.  Lincoln won the election with under 50% of the popular vote.  No one Southern State had his name on their ballot.  It was as though two totally separate elections had occurred.  In point of fact one can easily say that the Civil War actually began with this election.

 

At the end of the Civil War Radical Republicans dominated both Houses of Congress.  The President of the United States was a former Southern Democrat, Andrew Johnson.  He had been a senator from Tennessee who remained in Washington and refused to join in the Secession from the Union.  Johnson ran with Lincoln during his second term as the Vice-presidential candidate under the slogan of the National Unity Ticket.

 

Lincoln was assassinated early during his second term and Andrew Johnson became president from 1864 to 1867.  The Radical Republicans had a super majority in both Houses of Congress; consequently they were able to do whatever they wanted.  Johnson was unsuccessfully impeached toward the end of his term.  In 1868, the Republican, former General Ulysses S. Grant, became the 18th President of the United States.

 

In the election of 1876 the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes ran against the Democrat, Samuel J. Tilden.  The Republicans desperately wanted to retain the presidency.  Tilden had the greater number of popular votes.  Several states ended up electing two sets of electors, both Democratic and Republican.  The crisis was not resolved until the night before the new President was to take office.  A back-door deal was made by which the Republicans got the presidency and the Southern States had the Northern armies of occupation removed and became independent states again, ending all the remnants of the Civil War.  The United States reemerged as a two party nation.  At this time the Blacks systematically lost their rights as freedmen, although they kept that title.

 

The Republican Party adopted many of the economic policies of the Whigs: national banks, railroad expansion, and high tariffs.  They were the businessman’s political party.  Their anti-slave policy and the Civil War had brought the Black population, the freedmen, into their party and kept them dominant in Congress until this time.  The Southern States returned to the Democratic Party which maintained its traditional values.  The Republicans also attracted shop owners, skilled craftsmen, clerks, and professionals who were attracted to the party’s modernization policies.  These political coalitions lasted almost to the end of the 19th Century.

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The Civil War expedited economic change in America.  From its end through the 1920s there was a rush of new immigration into the United States, mainly from Eastern Europe and Ireland.  The Industrial Revolution in all forms of rapid economic growth took hold of the country at this time generating a rapid settlement of the entire continental United States.  The late 19th Century was the period of the Gilded Age, rapid industrial growth, the confluence of money into the hands of a few brought about the rise of the “robber barons,” monopoly and oligopoly; phenomenal affluence for a small number and sweat-shops and twelve to fifteen hour shifts for large groups of children, women, and men in factories.  The country went from a rural nation to an urban one during this period.

 

Small towns became cities virtually overnight with almost no understanding or regulations about supplying clean water to large populations and housing or sewerage or food regulation laws.  The government performed no social services.  Political machines developed by both political parties in the urban areas.  Epidemics became common, particularly in warmer weather.  Death tolls, particularly in slum areas were inordinately high, especially among infants and young children.

 

Among this environment, within the urban areas, individual states, and the Federal Government the Progressive Movement developed and grew.  It would continue until the United States got involved in the Great War (World War I).  Both major political parties would at different times lead this movement, which, to a large extent, would be fed by magazine articles and books demonstrating the horrific conditions that existed in the factories, slums, and cities.

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All the presidents from Lincoln’s death until Teddy Roosevelt’s accession were decent men but weak presidents.  They and Cabinet members were continually hounded by jobseekers and political machine operators looking to collect on campaign promises.

 

The major issues of this period were the protective tariff, currency reform, and civil service reform.  President James A. Garfield was shot by a dissatisfied job seeker.  Even with this civil service reform came slowly over the course of the late 19th Century.

 

Tariff and currency reform lasted throughout this period and led to the Progressive Movement.  Business interests supported protective tariffs and tight or hard money (gold).  They lobbied and spent freely to achieve these goals, which the Republicans tended to support.  The Democrats largely backed a loose money policy, using both gold and silver.

 

From 1876 through 1900, Congress was known for being rowdy and inefficient and the Presidents as more or less capable of doing their jobs but not much more.  The two major political parties tended to be similar in their outlook with the exception that the Republicans favored business and the Democrats vied slightly toward farmers.  And the government was considered highly corrupt.

 

With one exception, and that was Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate, who was twice elected to a four year term in 1884 and in 1892, all the other presidents had been Republicans.  All of them, from both political parties had served in the Civil War.

 

In addition, among the farmers, at this time, the Granger Movement gradually developed and it in turn become part of the Populist Movement, which pushed for Agrarian Reform in the United States.  The Populist Movement and urban conditions and corruption throughout the country gave birth to the Progressive Reform Movement which existed on the both the state levels and on the national level.

 

The early Progressive Movement rose on a grass root level.  It was supported by the farmers who wanted a loose money policy.  This would allow them to pay back their debts with less expensive currency.  The businessmen and bankers preferred a tight money policy.  They wanted the debts paid back with more expensive money than they had initially spent or loaned out.  Into this mix came magazine and book writers, the muckrakers, who tended to expose the corruption that existed on all levels of society.  Also at this time the giant industrial cities came into existence with no initial rules or regulations on how they had to be governed or function, in areas like hygiene, sanitation, and city government and social services to the newly arrived immigrants.

 

All this gradually ended with the accession of Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency after the assassination of William McKinley by an anarchist in 1901.  Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, would be the first of the Progressive Presidents.  He would be followed by William Howard Taft, another Republican.  The third Progressive President would be Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.  This period would end with the First World War

 

During this period corruption was exposed in numerous aspects of the nation and a certain amount of regulation was promulgated throughout the various levels of the society: local, state, and national.  The Senate up to 1913 had been appointed by the different state legislatures and had become, usually by bribery, largely an extension of large corporations like Standard Oil’s attorneys.  It thereafter, through the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, was directly elected by the people within the individual states.  Oregon introduced in 1902 the initiative and the referendum process, which, in turn, was copied by numerous other states.  The recall election was also introduced whereby an elected official could be unelected from his office.  In addition Women Suffrage (the vote) came about at this period.  The tide of reforms ended with the World War.

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At the end of the war Woodrow Wilson went to Europe to develop the Treaty of Versailles.  He brought the treaty to Washington where it was rejected by the Republicans in the Senate.  There was a struggle to pass the Treaty, and, during that time, President Wilson suffered a heart attack from which he never totally recovered.

 

The Treaty could have been modified to satisfy the Republicans but Wilson refused to compromise.  The United States never signed it.  Instead they eventually signed a separate treaty with Germany.  The major item in the Treaty was the establishment of a League of Nations, which the United States never joined.

 

At the end of his term the invalid, Woodrow Wilson, was replaced by the Republican, Warren Harding, who died in office after a number of corruption scandals emerged.  He was replaced by his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, who later ran on his own and won.  He, in turn, was replaced by Herbert Hoover.  These three Republican presidents fully believed Adam Smith’s theory that the market-place would make all the proper economic decisions for how the country should be run.

 

The motivating force according to Adam Smith was the “invisible hand,” the profit motive.  This brought the country in 1929 to the Great Depression.  Neither Hoover nor his staff knew how to really deal with this situation.  The United States and numerous other industrial nations went through periods of unbelievable misery with the governments trying to function in periods of massive unemployment and chaos.

 

In 1933, four years later, the new President, the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, working on almost an experimental basis saved capitalism and the country by adopting socialistic principles.  He called his policy “The New Deal,” a term taken from poker.  The Federal Government assumed responsibility for those who could not care for the mselves.  They created jobs and projects like Hoover Dam, which was originally called Boulder Dam, throughout the United States and he brought about social security.  It was a time of rapid experimentation, anything that worked and solved problems was utilized.

 

But even with all this many of the aspects of the Great Depression remained.  The country was better off but many still suffered.  What ended the last remnants of the Great Depression was World War II.  The spending required to fight and win the war and the army the U. S. raised ended the last remnants of the massive economic turndown.  In point of fact, the country entered the war in December of 1941 with the majority of the population being in the lower class and ended the war in 1945 with the majority of the population belonging to the middle class.  The economy had changed considerably.

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During the Second World War both political parties concentrated on fighting the war.  Roosevelt died during the last year of the fighting and was replaced by his Vice President, the Democrat: Harry S. Truman.

 

Truman in 1945, after the war ended, sponsored, what he called, the Fair Deal, as a continuation of the prewar New Deal.  The Republicans derided Truman and his program as a poor man’s version Roosevelt’s politics.  In 1948 they ran Thomas E. Dewey against him.  They also passed the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, which limited presidential tenure to two terms in office.  While the Amendment did not affect Truman; it would come into being with the next president; still it gave him a strong hint.  Franklin D. Roosevelt had died in office during his fourth term in office.

 

In 1948 the Republicans were positive that they would win the election.  At that time, before television, victory celebrations were held on radio.  On the night of the election there was a victory celebration for Dewey.  The Chicago Tribune headline the next morning was “Dewey Wins.”  But when the votes were counted Harry S. Truman had won and was still President of the United States.  All the polls had predicted Dewey as the winner; they all ate crow that year.

 

For the next four years there were a lot of frustrated Republicans in both Houses of Congress; but Congress still worked.  The fear after the war was that with the massive return of the military to civilian life the country would go into a deep recession with massive unemployment as it did directly after World War I.  But with intense rationing, the continual sale of war bonds, and unlimited employment during the war there was lots of money available.  All the automobile factories had been producing only for the war effort for the last four years; they now converted to civilian production, everyone wanted a new car.  A new industry, television came into being.  Other positive things happened.  There was no recession.  The returning veterans found jobs, started their own small business, returned to school: finishing high school and colleges.  The country smoothly went back to peacetime.  In fact, veterans received a government allowance if they went back to school.

 

Unfortunately, even with the new Organization, The United Nations, to which all the allied nations now belonged, peace did not come.  On June 25, 1950 until July 27, 1953 the United States and other United Nation countries were involved in the Korean War, which ended at the 38th Parallel, where it had begun.  This was the line splitting Korea into two parts: Communist in the North and non-communist in the South.  It would seem that almost every succeeding president from Truman on would have their own specific war.

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Truman was followed in the presidency in 1953 by Dwight David Eisenhower, the general who had led the war in Europe.  Eisenhower, initially had never voted in a presidential election.  He did not know which political party he belonged to.  Finally he decided he was a Republican and ran as their presidential candidate.

 

Eisenhower ended the Korean War by threatening to use atomic weapons.  It ended in a draw, which still continues to this day.

 

As a replacement for Truman the Democrats came up with Adlia Stevenson, the governor of Illinois.  Stevenson ran against Eisenhower twice and lost both times.  Eisenhower considered himself a middle-of-the-road Republican, that is, a moderate or liberal Republican.  The two parties functioned well together during his eight years in office.

 

In 1960 Richard M. Nixon, Eisenhower’s Vice President, ran against the Democrat, John F. Kennedy, who was a member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts.  Kennedy won that election by less than one per cent of the vote.  The two parties were able to function together and more or less pass all the necessary legislation.  /there were problems with his civil rights reform attempts.  In Viet Nam There was action, but not a major crisis.  It was during Kennedy’s presidency that the Bay of Pigs debacle occurred and later the Cuban Missile Crisis came about.  The Soviet Union had installed atomic missiles in Cuba.  Kennedy, short of war, got Russia to remove them.  His frustration came about in being limited in passing civil rights legislation.

 

Kennedy, while getting ready to run for a second term in 1963, was in a motorcade in downtown Dallas, Texas, when he was shot by an assassin.  His Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson became the next President of the United States.  President Johnson was reelected in 1964.  He ran against the arch-conservative Barry Goldwater and overwhelmingly defeated him.  Johnson attempted to force the war in Viet Nam toward an American victory by massively increasing U.S. forces there.  He was not successful.  In the United States he declared War on Poverty.  Again he was not successful.  As an essentially defeated man Johnson announced that he would not run for the presidency in 1968.

 

Where Johnson was eminently successful was in pushing through Congress both his and John F. Kennedy’s plan for civil rights reform in the nation.  Segregation was essentially legally ended throughout the South and in other parts of the country.  The statement that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence was expanded to include Blacks and Women.  It was a major achievement.

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In the 1968 Election the Republican Richard M. Nixon ran against the Democratic Vice President, Hubert Humphrey.  A third party candidate, former Alabama Governor, George Wallace, ran representing the American Independent Party, which supported separation of the races in public education.  Nixon won with 43.4% of the vote; Humphrey got 42.7%, and Wallace received 13.5%.

 

The election year was tumultuous, being marked by the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.  The Democratic Convention had open warfare between Viet Nam protestors and the Chicago police.  Nixon won the popular vote by .07 percentage points and the Electoral College vote by 301 to 191 for Humphrey.

 

Besides economic problems Nixon faced a massive protest throughout his presidency over the Viet Nam War.  He presumably had a secret plan to end the war.  This came down to a return of American prisoners of war and withdrawing with honor.  That was making a defeat in war not look like a defeat.

 

Negotiations were begun.  The initial problem was the shape of the Negotiating Table.  There were people from North Viet Nam, from South Viet Nam, and from the United States, and there was also the National Liberation Front, who were from South Viet Nam but favored the North.  The issue was resolved by using a round table with two smaller ones nearby.

 

Nixon’s strategy was to bring increasing pressure on Communist North Viet Nam by increasing the war so they would be willing to compromise.  He expanded the war to Cambodia and bombing along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Supplies were being brought into North Viet Nam into the South over this route.  There was both warfare and peace negotiations that would be going on during Nixon’s term as President.

 

In 1972 Nixon ran for a second term as the Republican candidate.  The Democratic candidate was the highly liberal senator from South Dakota, George McGovern.  The Republicans were so sure he could not win that they contributed money secretly to his campaign wanting to make sure he was the Democratic candidate.

 

McGovern ran on an Anti-War Campaign against the incumbent, Richard Nixon.  McGovern was perceived by many voters as a left-wing extremist.  Nixon won in a landslide, gaining 60.7% of the popular vote.  He received 18 million more votes than McGovern, carrying 49 states.

 

Unfortunately, during the election, because of some paranoid tendencies of Nixon, a group of his employees called the plumbers  burgled Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. several times in order to find out what the Democrats were doing and planning.  The final time they did this they were caught and arrested.

 

The question became: What did Nixon know?  And when did he know it?  It took two years for this to unravel.  And then the answer was that he knew about the burglary from the very beginning.  Nixon resigned from the presidency two years after being elected for a second term.  He resigned the day before a Bill of Impeachment was to be voted upon in the House of Representatives.

 

Interestingly his vice president, Spiro Agnew, had resigned earlier.  The government had an 80 page inditement against him for extortion, going back to when he was governor of Maryland.  Because of the Watergate controversy the Justice Department allowed him to plead, no contest, and resign from the vice-presidency.

 

The irony was that Nixon chose a new Vice-President, Senator Gerald Ford, who assumed the Presidency in 1974.  President Ford later issued a Proclamation on September 8, 1974 pardoning Richard Nixon from any crimes he may have committed.

 

President Gerald Ford ended the Viet Nam War.  This was the first war that the United States lost.  Today Viet Nam trades with the United States and is a relatively inexpensive tourist attraction.  It cost a lot less to visit Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) than to go to a city in Hawaii.

 

In 1978 Republican President Gerald Ford ran against the Democratic contender, James Earl (Jimmy) Carter.  Jimmy Carter won by a margin of 57 Electoral votes.  He had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress during both congressional terms.  On his second day in office President Carter pardoned all evaders of the Viet Nam War.  He created the Departments of Energy and Education.  He brought about the Camp David Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

The country suffered from Stagflation at this time, a combination of both high inflation and high unemployment.  Carter could not bring himself to allow the Draconian program that would solve this problem.  The next President, Ronald Reagan would do this and bring about a large homeless problem throughout the United States which still exists today.

 

President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaties, giving the canal to Panama.  It was during his term in office that the Iranian Revolution occurred and the American Embassy personnel were held as captives by the new government of Iran.  They were returned to the U.S. shortly after the next president took office.  Carter was defeated in the 1980 Election by Ronald Reagan.

 

Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency on January 20, 1981 and served two terms through January 20, 1989.  He was a Republican and a conservative, bringing about changes that the conservatives had wanted for years.  He was also the oldest man elected to the presidency.

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Forgetting the post-Civil-War Period when the Radical Republicans, wanting to punish the South and controlled Congress from 1865 to 1878 when Rutherford Hayes stole the presidency from the Democrat, Samuel Tilden.  At that time the Republicans had a super majority in both Houses of Congress and could and did pass any law they put forth without the President’s signature.

 

Outside of this relatively short period in the nation’s history the two major political parties essentially got along and, more or less, cooperated with one another in passing the necessary laws for the nation.  The point has been made in an earlier blog that Democratic President Jimmy Carter was more conservative that Gerald Ford’s Republican Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller.  On the political line mentioned at the beginning of this blog Rockefeller would be placed left of center and Carter would go right of center.

 

This was true of many Congressmen.  There have historically been many conservative Democrats and moderate or liberal Republicans.  There was no separate void between them in terms of political positions.  There was always a slight difference in basic philosophy but there was always open communication and the possibility of compromise.

 

This has been a fact of United States history.  There was generally cooperation between both political parties.  The Conference Committee, which met after a bill was passed in slightly different versions in the two Houses of Congress, has been able to continually come up with a compromise bill for both Houses of Congress to successfully vote upon.

 

This system has existed until Barack Obama became President of the United States.  What has occurred from that time on has essentially been the development of the Tea Party, an extreme right arm of the Republican Party that is largely uneducated in the function of government and modern economics.  In the House of Representatives they are the Freedom Coalition.  In point of fact their aim seems to be to do away with the Federal Government

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The Weiner Component #100 – Elections USA

English: United States Supreme Court building ...

English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the Federal Government from restricting political independent expenditures by billionaires, corporations, associations, and labor unions. Money could now be limitlessly spend by these entities because money is now just another expression of free speech even though every other Democratic power in the world limits political expenditures.

The First Amendment to the Constitution states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

It was in this Amendment to the Constitution that a majority of members of the Supreme Court suddenly discovered that the expenditure of money was simply an expression of free speech.

Under this principle the more money you have and are willing to spend the freer and more equal is your speech.

Every other Democratic country strongly limits the amount of money that can be spent on elections but in the United States it is now almost limitless.

Interestingly, The Federalist Papers, was a series of eighty-five short essays, published in 1787 – 1788 explaining the Constitution and written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay prior to the vote on it in the colony of New York. These documents are considered the basic definition of the Constitution by men who participated in writing it. Nowhere in any of these essays is freedom equated with money. This discovery is solely that of the current five conservative members of the present day Supreme Court.

Of the original purposes of the United States Constitution the fifth one is to “promote the general Welfare” of the people. The issue of how this is done becomes extremely fascinating.

Congress makes the laws, the President administers them, and the Supreme Court defines both the laws and the Constitution. Nine Justices make up the body of this court; and they are each appointed by the sitting President, when a vacancy occurs through death or retirement, with the “advice and consent” of the Senate, for life.

Since its inception in 1788 there have been two approaches to ascertaining the meaning of the Constitution. One has been a strict interpretation of what it specifically says and the other is a loose interpretation of its intent.

For example: Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution but when the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, offered to sell him the territory of Louisiana, which would double the size of the new United States, for the sum of 15 million dollars he instantly approved it even though he felt there was no authority in the Constitution to do this. Later the Supreme Court decided that the President had that authority through the treaty provision in the Constitution.

To Jefferson, time was of essence if the deal was to be made that would allow yeoman farmers to be able to have land to freely settle upon for well over the next hundred years and he had to act quickly. Practicality won out over principle.

Of the nine justices on the Supreme Court currently five are conservative and traditionally taking a strict interpretation of the Constitution and four are considered liberal and their reading of the document tends to be loose, dealing more with intent than the specific word.

In the 2009 case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the role of the nine justices have been reversed with the conservative judges taking a loose interpretation and the liberal ones supporting a strict view of the Constitution. If one conservative vote were changed the decision would be the opposite of what it is.

In the 2013 case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which was decided in early April of 2014, the Court by a five to four vote invalidated aggregate contribution limits as violating the First Amendment. The Court found no merit in arguments calling for a level playing field or to evening the financial resources available to candidates. It concluded that “The First Amendment prohibits such legislative attempts to fine-tune the electoral process, no matter how well intentioned.”

The five conservative justices have taken a paternalistic view, apparently figuring that the wealthy have a larger stake in the country than ordinary people and ought to have more influence in making societal decisions. They have actually abrogated a good part of the concept of democracy allowing the rich far more influence than everyone else. And all this by one vote on the Supreme Court.

Of the five conservative judges who voted in McCutcheon v. FEC, one, Clarence Thomas, concurred but wrote a separate decision. He wanted all restrictions upon financial contributions done away with.

A separate argument can be made to limit financial political contributions based upon the police power of the state. No right that any individual or group has is unlimited, the basic principle here is providing for the common welfare; that is, essentially leveling the field for all.

Currently two of the conservative justices are over seventy years of age, one liberal justice is over eighty. Within at least the next decade one or more of these judges will retire or become deceased. If the sitting president is Democratic a liberal justice will be appointed. If it is a Republican president the judge will be conservative.

Also if the Senate is to support a Democratic president they must have a majority of 60 or more votes. Otherwise, the probability is that the Republicans will filibuster all Democratic candidates for the Supreme Court, leaving one or more vacancies regardless of who the Democratic chosen candidate is.

What emerges here is if you disagree with the above decision then it is imperative to vote in all the oncoming elections, both presidential and midterm.

It should also be noted that every Hispanic, or for that matter anyone who usually votes and does not in the 2014 Midterm Election, is indirectly casting a vote for the Republican Party and weakening the Democratic position. These votes can strongly affect the Supreme Court if the then president is a Republican.

Many Latinos are disgusted with both major political parties feeling that President Obama has not carried through on his promises to solve the immigration problem. The President can issue executive orders but he cannot make laws. This is done by Congress. President Obama has issued a positive executive order concerning Hispanic children who were brought to this country as youngsters. He has issued none about other immigration issues. What he can do is Constitutionally limited. No doubt the President is waiting to see the result of the 2014 Election.

In many of the states like Georgia, which has a hot Senate and gubernatorial race with both sides running neck in neck in the poles, every Democratic vote is important. This is also true in states like California, Nevada, and Colorado, as well as many other states in the United States.

Remember every person who does not bother to vote is actually casting a ballot for the opposite party.

English: First page of Constitution of the Uni...

English: First page of Constitution of the United States Česky: První strana originálu Ústavy Spojených států amerických Español: La página primera de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos de América (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #87 – The Supreme Court of the United States in the Year of 2014

Article 3 of The Constitution of the United States says that the “Judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress shall from time to time ordain”. That is all it says.

Article 1 deals with the Congress and Article 2 has to do with the President. Their powers and functions are generally enumerated. Apparently it was assumed that the Supreme Court will do whatever courts do.

In 1800 Thomas Jefferson, a Democrat, was elected to the presidency. On his last day in office the former president, John Adams, a Federalist, appointed his Secretary of State, John Marshall, as the third Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He also made 58 appointments to the federal judiciary; the new judges were called “midnight appointments. These appointments were made under the Organic Act, which presumably would allow the Federalists to take control of the federal judiciary. Adams was attempting to pack the court with Federalists for years to come.

The new president, Thomas Jefferson, was the head of the Democratic Party. He wanted to appoint his own men to the Judiciary.

John Marshall, the new Chief justice, was a Federalist who adhered to the Federalist principals. It was believed that Marshall could be impeached for rendering a decision favoring the Federalists. Instead Marshall rendered a decision finding a section of the Judiciary Act, a Federalist law, unconstitutional. The decision was based upon the fact that these powers were not given by the Constitution. A section of a Federalist law was declared unconstitutional and the principle of judicial review was established. John Marshall had checkmated Jefferson and had given the Court the power to oversee the laws of the United States.

President Thomas Jefferson ordered his Secretary of State, James Madison, not to deliver these commissions of office. William Marbury brought his case before the Supreme Court under a writ of mandamus which demanded that the Secretary of State deliver his commission. Chief Justice John Marshall found a section of the Organic Act unconstitutional because it contradicted the constitution. Marbury did not get his commission and Jefferson could not impeach his chief justice. The Court’s power of Judicial Review was established.

While the Supreme Court has dealt with many issues from the overall Constitution a large percentage of its decisions have and are being based upon the Bill of Rights which was added to the original document.

Of the current nine Justices of the Supreme Court currently serving on the Court two were appointed by Reagan, a Republican, one was appointed by the elder Bush, a Republican, two were appointed by Clinton, a Democrat, two were appointed by the younger Bush, a Republican, and two were appointed by Obama, a Democrat. The Republican appointed Justices tend to be conservative in their decisions and the Democratic ones are liberal. The current balance is 5 to 4 in terms of conservative decisions.

The oldest judge, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in 1933 and is 81 years old. She recently gave a 35 page passionate dissent in the Hobby Lobby decision. The two Reagan appointed judges, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy were born in 1936 and are 78. One of Clinton’s appointees, Stephen Breyer is 76. The rest of the Judges date from 1948, Clarence Thomas, to 1960. Three of the Justices are women.

Four of the Justices are well over the retirement age and one has just reached it. Whoever is elected in 2016 could well determine the direction the court will take over the next decade or longer.

Traditionally the Court in its decisions has been behind the times. Until relatively recently the Judges have all been men, usually elder men whose views were firmly fixed before they were appointed to this office. Their views reflected their lives which were centered upon their earlier years. For example during the Roosevelt Administration the Justices found much of the New Deal unconstitutional. Roosevelt while running for his second term proposed a plan to pack the Supreme Court, wanting to place a second judge for each presiding Justice who had reached a certain age. He failed to be able to carry this measure through Congress. However there were retirements and he placed New Deal Lawyers on the Court.

Another case where the Court was out of sync with the majority of the society was the Dred Scott Case in 1857. Here the Chief Justice writing for the majority declared that Dred Scott, who had been taken by his owner outside of slave territory was still a slave because he could not sue for his freedom. Further that slaves could be taken anywhere in the Union and still remain slaves; that the Missouri Compromise of 1850, which avoided the Civil War a decade earlier, was unconstitutional. The reaction of the Northern and Western states, that had the bulk of the population, was to get proper men elected who would appoint antislavery people to the Supreme Court and change that erroneous decision. Are we in a similar situation today? The country is facing massive problems with the current state of immigration laws and unlimited funding for political campaigns.

Interestingly, the number 9 for the number of Judges is not sacrosanct. The only thing stated in the Constitution is that there shall be a Supreme Court, Congress determined how many members would be on the Court after some experimenting and the number 9 is what they ended up with.

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A former Justice on the Supreme Court once said that “the Constitution means what we say it does,” but he did not say that the Court can change its mind as it did in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, where it found “separate but equal” Constitutional in 1896 but inherently unconstitutional in 1954 in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.

Nothing, it seems, is permanent as far as the meanings of the United States Constitution are concerned. Voting rights limits, limits on financing political parties, affirmative action rights, the sanctity of a woman’s body or the right of contraception. All these can be legislated upon and the limits of this legislation can be set by the Supreme Court.

Perhaps the most irresponsible decision made by the five conservative judges on the Supreme Court is the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Case which was decided on June 31, 2014 with the argument written by Judge Samuel Alito. This decision gave employers of “closely held” companies; that is, those controlled by five or less individuals the power to decide whether or not to include certain forms of birth control in their Affordable Health Care Plans for their female employees. Hobby Lobby lawyers argued that doing so infringed upon the owners religious beliefs. Of course the beliefs of all the female employees who would be deprived of contraceptive devices by their employers was superfluous.

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote an impassioned 25 page decent for herself and her three fellow liberal judges, implying that this decision was opening up a Pandora’s Box for all sorts of religious claims by trumping of                                  employers rights. She also pointed out that the general public, the taxpayers would end up paying for these legitimate health care needs.

What should be interesting in the near future is to see who makes claims in order to hold up their religious beliefs, who wants to avoid paying for coverage of blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses), antidepressants (Scientologists), vaccinations (Christian Scientists), immunizations, employing homosexuals, etc. These are only a few of the possibilities that can open up in the near future and beyond.

On Monday the five members of the Supreme Court exempted Hobby Lobby from having to provide contraceptive coverage to women in their health care insurance policies; on Thursday of the same week they provided a similar exemption to a small evangelistic school, Wheaton College. What happens next week and beyond?

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The original concept of the founding fathers was that all people with a basic education were capable of intelligent voting; that they would vote their self-interest and in this process vote for what is best for the new United States. Is this concept true? Unfortunately the answer is negative. A goodly percentage of the people are totally wrapped up in their own lives so that politics is outside their range of consciousness except during major elections. Many others vote their prejudices rather than their interests. All this means is that a large number of people are inclined to be influenced during major elections and ignore the process during non-presidential elections. It also means that clever advertising can determine the outcome of elections in the United States.

On April 2, 2014, In the Case of McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court by a vote of five conservative judges to four liberal justices struck down the provisions of federal law aimed at limiting the influence of donors as curbs to free speech.

Even though most industrial nations limit the amounts that can be spent in individual election the U.S. has now taken the opposite position. In the 2012 Presidential Election some eighty plus millionaires and billionaires contributed the bulk of the money for the Republican candidates. While these people are exercising their free speech by contributing billions of dollars, those who can only afford to spend well under $100.00 have a much smaller ability to exercise their right of free speech. While money cannot directly buy elections it can strongly influence them. This type of ruling allows the United States to become a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

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The state of Massachusetts by law drew a 35 foot buffer around abortion clinics. Its purpose was to protect clients going to these institutions from harassment and obstruction. The Supreme Court struck down this law as a violation of free speech. Originally the law was passed because antiabortion protesters literally blocked patients from entering the clinics. Offering a middle ground in these sidewalk battles often waged outside women’s health facilities all nine judges agreed that the no-talking and no standing zones were unconstitutional and unnecessary. A narrow majority affirmed that cities and states have the power to prevent or arrest protestors who are obstructing clinics or harassing patients. With the support of the liberal Judges, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. sought a compromise that protects both free speech and a woman’s right to a legal abortion.

It is interesting to note that a similar right to free speech in terms of the Supreme Court itself still does not exist; the buffer zone still exists around the Supreme Court which has its own buffer zone within and around its building in Washington, D.C. “No person shall engage in a demonstration within the Supreme Court building and grounds.” The word “demonstration includes picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services, and all other forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is likely to draw a crowd of onlookers. However in the case of protecting women, entering a female health center presumably for an abortion, from verbal and physical abuse the buffer zone is illegal.

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In the case of the National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning the Supreme Court interpreted the breath of President Obama’s authority to make appointments during Senate recesses. This deals with the “advice and consent” clause of the Constitution, whereby the Senate consents to presidential appointments.

What has happened of late is that a hostile number of Republican Senators have either refused to confirm presidential appointments or have filibustered them, not allowing any action to be taken on the appointment. The Supreme Court rule of June 26, 2014 greatly limiting the ability of President Obama and future presidents to use recess appointments to circumvent congressional appointments to their judicial and executive nominees. They ruled unanimously that Obama exceeded his power under the Constitution when he filled three federal positions while the Senate was on a brief break.

The Justices upheld the basic right of the president to make recess appointments during a Congressional recess, a power which is granted by the Constitution and has been used by every president since George Washington. The issue seems to revolve around a ten day recess. Obama made his appointments after a three day recess.

Since November of 2007 the Senate has used a tactic called pro forma sessions to keep from going into a formal recess for longer than three days. No business is conducted during these sessions and only one senator is required to gavel the session open.

Initially the founding fathers, when they wrote the Constitution, wanted a check upon the president. The recent Congress was elected in 2010 and 2012. They are led by the Tea Party Republicans and have continually tried to hamper everything the President has tried to do. The legislature has engendered a policy of extremes, without any possibility of any cooperation. Will other presidents undergo the same plight? Probably if they are black and belong to a different political party.

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There are numerous other cases that the Supreme Court dealt with in 2014.  In the case of Schyette v. Coalition to Defend Affordable Action the Court decided that states could restrict their use of Affirmative Action programs in university admissions and other public institutions.  A divided Court upheld the Environment Protection Agency’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule.  A short prayer at public governmental meetings was upheld.  Cellphone privacy was upheld, now a search warrant is required.  These are many of the decisions reached by the Supreme Court mostly at the end of their 2014 session.

Next year some of these may be overturned or strengthened depending upon the makeup of the Court.