I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cruz Drops Out

Hi all,

I know our class has come to a close, but I thought you might be interested in this article. In the wake of many discussions about Donald Trump, it seems that he will be the Republican nominee. I find this is a sad development for the 2016 election. Amidst a political climate that purports to discourage polarization and extremism, the electorate seems to be accepting bigotry and misinformation. That said, I am not sure Ted Cruz's remaining in the election would have made anything better. Sorry for the somber post-class post! Good luck on all finals!


Monday, May 2, 2016

Congress, History and Courage

Congress and Progressive Reforms

16th Amendment
17th Amendment


Inherent limitations of Congress:
  • Except in simulation, legislation is slow. (And swift action is not necessarily smart action.)
  • In a body resting on geographic representation, parochialism is inevitable. (And it is often legitimate.)
  • A multi-member, bicameral institution will have a hard time planning.  (And planning is overrated.)


JFK on the complexity of courage:
  • The pressure to "go along" -- but we "should not be too hasty in condemning all compromise as bad morals."
  • The pressure to seek reelection -- but lawmakers "who go down to defeat in a vain defense of a single principle will not be on hand to fight for that or any other principle in the future."
  • The pressure to serve interest groups -- but "they are the articulate few whose views cannot be ignored and who constitute the greater part of our contacts with the public at large, whose opinions we cannot know..."
On January 12, 1991, House Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA) and Republican Leader Bob Michel (R-IL) spoke about the impending Gulf War. Click for video of their remarks, so you can see what grownups look like:


Sophie pointed to this item at Five Thirty Eight by Craig Fehrman:
In the 21st century, Indiana has started to shift in some small ways. It now boasts more residents who were born outside of the state than Ohio or Michigan does. (Indiana also scores better than them on some measures of racism.) More striking, though, are the ways in which Indiana has stayed the same. Among its Old Northwestern peers, Indiana ranks last in median family income. It ranks last in the percentage of residents who’ve completed a bachelor’s degree. It ranks first in the share of the population that is white Evangelical Protestant and in the share of residents who identify as conservative. On these and a host of other measures — percentage of homes without broadband internet, rate of teen pregnancy, rate of divorce — you’ll often see Indiana finishing closer to Kentucky or Tennessee than to Ohio or Wisconsin. In other words, you’ll see 200 years of history making its presence known.
A lot of those factors correlate with support for Trump. (Another way to say this is that Thomas Lincoln would have probably voted for The Donald.) The Hoosier State has lots of manufacturing — the most in the country, by some measures — and that seems good for Trump, too. Yet the Evangelical presence could be promising for Cruz (with the caveat that Indiana scores lower on church attendance). And then there’s Cruz’s deal with Kasich, though it’s somewhat muddled by the preferences of the state’s delegates(and by Kasich’s own statements).
For all of these reasons, Indiana remains a tough primary to call. But the toughest factor is the state’s own essential strangeness. What do I think, as a native son? I think Trump will do better here than most pundits predict. But I also think those pundits should spend less time talking about Trump and more time trying to understand our complicated, diverse, historically messy (and yet ultimately endearing) 50 states.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

“Everything in American history leads up to the Civil War or is a consequence of it." -- Ken Burns

About last night:

Webster 1/26/1830:
"Liberty first and Union afterward”; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart—Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!
Daniel Webster, 3/7/1850 (during the South Carolina secession crisis):
I wish to speak to-day, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. 
Thomas Hart Benton and pistols in the Senate

Kansas-Nebraska Act  and Sam Houston

You want polarization? Here's some polarization. Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina beats Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts


Fast forward to Lucius Lamar

Lincoln-Douglas debate (24:32)

Congress and the Civil War

The Lincoln movie and parliamentary procedure

The Lincoln movie, more generally...

The congressional oath of office dates from this era.

Background on the impeachment process.

There is an entire site on the Johnson impeachment.

Another impeachment

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

John Oliver on Puerto Rico's Debt Crisis

John Oliver discusses the effects of Puerto Rico's debt crisis on Puerto Ricans and Congress's role in it, especially with regards to US laws and how they selectively apply to and impact Puerto Rico. Includes a cameo by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame! Enjoy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Congressional History I

Polarized Congress

Federalist 52:
As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.
Federalist 55:
THE number of which the House of Representatives is to consist, forms another and a very interesting point of view, under which this branch of the federal legislature may be contemplated. Scarce any article, indeed, in the whole Constitution seems to be rendered more worthy of attention, by the weight of character and the apparent force of argument with which it has been assailed. The charges exhibited against it are, first, that so small a number of representatives will be an unsafe depositary of the public interests; secondly, that they will not possess a proper knowledge of the local circumstances of their numerous constituents; thirdly, that they will be taken from that class of citizens which will sympathize least with the feelings of the mass of the people, and be most likely to aim at a permanent elevation of the few on the depression of the many; fourthly, that defective as the number will be in the first instance, it will be more and more disproportionate, by the increase of the people, and the obstacles which will prevent a correspondent increase of the representatives.

Territorial Expansion and Slavery

Webster and Benton

How Members Ask for Money