American Civics

Analysis: Fact Check: No, Democrats — The Electoral College Was Not Created Because of Slavery

Democrats are complaining about the Electoral College once again. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is running for president, told a CNN town hall on Monday night in Mississippi that she wanted to abolish it because it meant that candidates avoided states that were not “battleground states.” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) followed suit on Tuesday, telling CNN the Electoral College was “conceived in sin” to “perpetuat[e] slavery.” Fact Check: FALSE. They are both wrong. The Electoral College is an institution created by Article II of the Constitution for the election of the president. It provides that each state will appoint a certain number of “electors,” equal to the number of representatives it has in Congress (House plus Senate). The electors are to meet in their respective states and cast their votes for president. The votes from all the states are then counted in Congress, and the person who wins a majority is elected president. The primary purpose of the Electoral College was to serve as a brake on populism. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 68: “A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment” necessary to select a person with “the requisite qualifications,” who would not use “low intrigue” or “little arts of popularity” to sway the masses of the people to support him. In other words, the Electoral College was designed as an anti-populist measure. Over time, the votes of the electors became more or less automatic — that is, all of a state’s electors generally cast their vote for whichever presidential candidate wins the majority of votes in that state. Few were particularly bothered about that, until George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 despite losing the popular vote. Even after that, Democrats did not change the system. Then came the election of Donald Trump, which Democrats still regard as illegitimate. Many cling to conspiracy theories that Trump somehow conspired with Russia to steal the presidency. The real (non-)secret was that Trump campaigned in Midwestern states Democrats had taken for granted. (Hillary Clinton did not even visit Wisconsin in the general election.) Warren, Cohen, and others now want to undo the system that allowed Trump to win. But their diagnosis of the problem is wrong. The reason candidates avoid states like California, Mississippi, and Massachusetts during the general election campaign has less to do with the Electoral College and more to do with the fact that they consistently choose one party over another. (Candidates do campaign vigorous in those states during the primary stage, and visit wealthy liberal states during the general election to hold political fundraisers.) It is true that a national popular vote would mean that voters who are in the minority in any given state would see their votes “count.” But it is untrue that candidates would therefore spend more time in rural states or small states. Quite the opposite: presidential campaigns would shift to focus on the country’s dense population centers, such as the New York tri-state area and Southern California. Elections would probably be less, not more, representative. As President Trump tweeted Tuesday: “With the Popular Vote, you go to … just the large States – the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power.” A national popular vote would also enable cheating. Democrats know the voting rules are loosest in states they control, like California. In the 2018 midterm elections, for example, they used “ballot harvesting,” in which activists delivered thousands of mail-in ballots for other people. The practice is illegal in many states, but Democrats legalized it in California. They want to run up the score there, then use their “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” to award other states’ electoral votes to the popular vote winner. Republicans cannot accept that. Then there is Cohen’s argument about slavery. He claims that the Electoral College was preferred by southern states because it allowed them greater clout than a national popular vote. Northern states could, theoretically, allow all of their adult residents to vote (though few did at the time). Southern states denied slaves the right to vote — but were allowed to count them, due to the infamous three-fifths compromise, in the size of their congressional delegations. That is part of the history of the Electoral College — even after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, when Democrats in the South continued to restrict the right of blacks to vote until the latter half of the twentieth century. But that is not the reason the Electoral College was created, and at this stage it has no effect whatsoever on the way we elect presidents. (Arguably, it is Democrats today that want to disenfranchise black voters, and other citizens, by counting illegal aliens in the Census toward the apportionment of congressional representatives to the states.) If anything, the current system favors the Democrats, because they are virtually guaranteed to win New York, California, and other large “blue” states with large numbers of electoral votes. (And it is quite possible that if the Electoral College functioned as originally designed, the electors would have stopped Trump from taking office.) The Electoral College is clumsy and archaic. But its replacement would likely be worse. The simple reason Democrats want to abolish the Electoral College is to rig the system so that they cannot lose. It is self-interest masquerading as civic virtue.

Exactly!!  And well said, Joel.  Joel B. Pollak is the author of that outstanding history lesson, and providing such great insight and perspective.  Joel is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.      🙂

Name a Supreme Court justice? More than half of Americans can’t, survey says

If Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court wins approval from the U.S. Senate, he’ll join a very exclusive club — so exclusive, in fact, that he may feel almost anonymous. That’s because more than half of Americans cannot name a single member of the nation’s highest court, according to a recent survey. The C-SPAN/PBS survey, which questioned 1,000 likely voters between Aug. 13-15, found that 52 percent of Americans were unfamiliar with the current eight members of the court. (Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Neil Gorsuch, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas.) Yet despite the shocking results, the survey marked an improvement over last year, when 57 percent of Americans couldn’t name a single Supreme Court justice. The most identifiable justice, according to this year’s poll, is Ginsburg, known to 25 percent of survey respondents. Interestingly, more men than women — 26 percent to 24 percent — could name the notorius RBG. Generally, self-identified Democrats were better than Republicans at naming members of the court, with 48 percent of Dems able to name at least one justice versus 45 percent for GOPers. Older people were also more likely to name a justice. The majority of adults age 50-64 and those age 65 and older were able to name a single court justice. Gorsuch, who joined the court just last year, was recalled by a mere 6 percent of respondents, despite extensive media coverage of his nomination and confirmation. As for Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy was known to 35 percent of respondents, but unknown to 60 percent.

More evidence that American Civics is not taught in our schools.

Representative government in America began this week — 399 years ago

If you were at Jamestown—the tiny English settlement on the banks of the James River in Virginia—399 years ago this week, you probably would have been aware that something unusual was happening. Over in the rough-hewn, thatch-roofed church building, 22 duly elected settlers, six councilors, and their newly arrived governor, all white males, were braving the intense summer heat to attend the first meeting of the “general Assemblie.” A new English charter a year earlier had authorized formation of this first representative assembly in the dozen-year-old colony, and the new governor, Sir George Yeardley, had seen to the charter’s implementation. It was the beginning of representative democracy in America, the forerunner of our Congress, state legislatures, and other representative bodies. Planted in Virginia a year before the Mayflower arrived from England, representative government would take root firmly, blossom in 13 largely self-governing colonies, and after independence grow into the great tree of American liberty, inspiring similar plantings in much of the world. It hardly seemed like a monumental event at the time. The burgesses met for less than a week, dealt with practical concerns like setting a tobacco price floor, relations with the Indians, and some criminal cases, and then departed one man down. Mr. Shelley of Smyths Hundred grew ill and passed way from the heat. Governor Yeardley and others also fell sick but survived. Representative government is frustrating today, but at least the survival rate has improved. Next year will mark the 400th anniversary of this hugely important, if rudimentary and tragedy-laced, beginning. It will present an opportunity to reflect on how far representative democracy has come and how far it still has to go. In addition to ceremonial events, the 2019 “American Evolution” Commemoration will feature highly substantive dialogues on the challenges confronting representative democracies today.

To learn more, click on the text above.

US Citizenship Test – Could You Pass?

An important part of the application process for becoming a US citizen is passing a civics test, covering important U.S. history and government topics. There are 100 civics questions on the naturalization test. During the interview process, applicants are asked up to 10 questions and must be able to answer at least 6 questions correctly. Here is a sampling of what may be asked. How would you do? Click here and find out!

Video: Americans Don’t Know Who Washington D.C. Was Named After

If you thought that Mark Dice couldn’t top his previous videos in exposing the American public’s alarming lack of knowledge about their own country’s history, then think again – numerous beachgoers in San Diego don’t know who Washington D.C. is named after. Asked “who is our nation’s capital named after,” one African American woman responded, “Erm, OK, umm, see why you gotta ask me something like that, can I Google it?” The woman desperately searches in vain for the answer before giving up. When Dice asks the same question of another two women, one of them responds, “You have to tell us,” before admitting, “I have no idea.” Another blonde woman does actually know the answer – George Washington – but then admits that she is not sure. “I don’t really care,” she adds. A man with a surfboard states, “I’m gonna have to go with….yeah I don’t know,” before an older man gets the answer right before telling Dice that millennials are “not gonna have a clue”. Easily the most cringeworthy exchange is between Dice and a man wearing an “I (heart) DC” t-shirt. “Our nation’s capital is named after who?” asks Dice. “I don’t know, I just woke up,” responds the man, adding that he doesn’t remember where he bought his shirt. The man struggles to remember that the city is named after Washington, but then cannot recall his first name, lamenting, “It’s not coming….I’m just out of it.” “Our nation’s capital is Washington D.C. and I don’t know who it’s named after,” states another man. “Some president, I don’t know, is it you?” his girlfriend asks Dice. An older lady then tells Dice that Washington D.C. is named after “Lincoln”. Perhaps the most depressing scene comes at the end of the video when a couple on vacation from Italy immediately know the answer and then express their amazement that many Americans are completely unaware as to who their first president was or that Washington D.C. is named after him.

To see this mind-numbing video, click on the text above.  But, a word of caution..  You may lose an IQ point or two..  This is what happens when American civics aren’t taught in our public schools.

Supreme Court: “Eight Is Enough (for Now)”

To hear some on the left tell it, the Supreme Court would be hamstrung if it had to function for a year or more without a ninth justice. What to do in the event of a 4-4 tie? This would not have been viewed as a problem, however, by America’s Founders, who created a Court with an even number of justices—six. In fact, Marbury v. Madison, arguably the most important case in the Court’s 226-year history, was decided by a six-justice Court. The Constitution, of course, leaves it up to Congress to decide how many justices will serve on the Supreme Court. In 1789, Congress passed, and President Washington signed, the Judiciary Act. That law determined that the number of Supreme Court justices should be six. The Congress of that day was full of men who had been at Independence Hall two years earlier and had participated in the writing of the Constitution, so they presumably knew what they were doing. With a six-justice Court, a 3-3 opinion simply meant the Court wouldn’t overturn a lower federal court ruling but instead would let it stand (or wouldn’t alter the status quo in a case taken up by the Court as a matter of original jurisdiction). One effect of a six-person Court was that it took two-thirds of the Court (4 votes to 2) to declare unconstitutional a law duly passed by Congress or a state legislature. With a nine-person Court, 5-4 rulings are commonplace: In modern times, the trajectory of the nation has changed repeatedly on the personal whims of an Anthony Kennedy or a Sandra Day O’Connor. An even-numbered Court seems to be more conducive to judicial restraint. From February 1790, when the Court first convened in the original capital of New York City, until March 1807 (when Thomas Todd became an associate justice on the John Marshall Court after having been nominated by Thomas Jefferson), Congress didn’t change the number of justices. Marbury v. Madison was a unanimous decision by the six justices in 1803. So much for not being able to get anything done with an even number. Indeed, when Congress increased the number of justices to seven in 1807, it doesn’t seem that moving to an odd number had anything to do with it. In The Supreme Court in United States History, Charles Warren writes that the addition of a seventh justice was a function of an era when Supreme Court justices had to “ride circuit,” serving on federal circuit courts. The need for an extra justice was “impelled by the increase of business and population in the Western Districts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, and by the necessity of bringing into the Court some lawyer versed in the peculiar land laws of those States.” The left would likely respond by saying that what worked in the Founding era wouldn’t work today, but the truth is that the Court worked far better in 1790 or 1806 than it did in 1973 or 2015. Judicial review is meant only to void acts that violate, as Alexander Hamilton put it, the “manifest tenor” (obvious meaning) of the Constitution. Justices are supposed to adhere to the clear-violation standard, which holds that an act must be unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt for the Court to be justified in voiding it. Justice Antonin Scalia adhered to the clear-violation standard of constitutional review. Returning to an even number of justices, if only for a year, would offer an additional level of protection against those justices who are inclined to eschew the clear-violation standard and impose their own wills. With an even number of justices, overturning the actions of the other, more representative branches of government would require at least a two-vote margin. Not only will the Court survive just fine with an even number of justices for the next year or so, it may even do the Court some good.

Fascinating!  Thanks to Jeffrey H. Anderson for this American civics lesson, and giving us a little perspective.   🙂

Starnes: Supreme Court Justice Judge Judy?

There’s really no way to sugarcoat this, moms and dads – your recent college graduate may be dumber than dirt. A recent survey showed that nearly ten percent of recent college graduates say that television star Judith Sheindlin is on the Supreme Court. Yes, friends – our best and brightest seem to think that Judge Judy sits on the highest court in the land. Parents your child’s B.A. may in fact be a bunch of B.S. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni said their survey uncovered a “crisis in American civic education.” The ACTA describes itself as an independent organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities. Their findings reveal “that recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America’s history and heritage.” That could explain why an avowed socialist like Bernie Sanders is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money. In it’s reporting on the study US magazine reports that students could not identify the father of the U.S. Constitution or name one of our First Amendment Rights. And that could explain a why a frightening number of college students support curbing free speech. Last November Pew Research Center released a survey that showed 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 believe the government should be able to ban any speech that is offensive to minority groups. For what it’s worth, kids – the “Right to Bear Arms” has nothing to do with limbs or opposable thumbs. And that brings us to the nearly ten percent of American college kids who think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court – holding forth with Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas and the one that always falls asleep during President Obama’s speeches. I suspect some of the young people surveyed have probably been defendants in Judge Judy’s television courtroom. She said something during one recent episode that relates to our current topic of discussion. “I’m older – smarter,” she told one of the simpletons. “If you live to be a hundred twenty you’re not gonna be as smart as I am in one finger.” To be honest with you – that’s really not a bad idea – appointing Judge Judy to the highest court in the land. It seems to me they could use a good dose of commons sense in that court room. It should really not be that much of a surprise that our taxpayer-funded universities and colleges are churning out boatloads of ignoramuses. They’ve been too busy coping with micro-aggressions and finding safe spaces and making up new genders. Sigh. We’ve gone from the Greatest Generation to the stupidest. Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is “God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.” Follow Todd on Twitter@ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.

As usual…  Todd Starnes knocks it out of the park.  This explains why Bernie and Hillary are as popular with college kids as they are…  Unreal..