Max Cleland was a great American public servant. First as a Soldier, then as Georgia's Secretary of State, United States Senator, Administrator of Veterans Affairs, director for the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, he embodied the ideals of public service we should all emulate as accountable citizens.
The recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action is a step backwards, and is inconsistent with the Court's other rulings on civil rights. In Chapter 6 of his most recent book, Close Encounters With Accountability Citizenship, Stephen Tryon addresses the reasons affirmative action programs are still necessary in the United States: specifically, because our society still manifests "disparate impact" based on race.
Benjamin Franklin was a leading intellectual of the 18th century who was also one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a successful printer, scientist, inventor and diplomat who signed both the Declaration of Independence (which he helped draft) and the Constitution. At the time of the Constitutional Convention (1787), Franklin was serving as the 6th "President" of Pennsylvania (Governor). He served as the Ambassador to Sweden and then as Ambassador to France. Later, he became the first Postmaster General of the United States.
Elbridge Gerry was a wealthy Massachusetts merchant who was active in opposing British rule in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. He was elected to the Second Continental Congress, and signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. Gerry was an active participant in the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, helping shape key aspects of the Constitution, including equal representation for states of all sizes in the United States Senate. He opposed the Three-Fifths Compromise. At the end of the Convention, however, he was one of three delegates who refused to sign the Constitution. His refusal was due to the lack of a Bill of Rights in the draft that the delegates were asked to sign. Later in his life, he became Governor of Massachusetts in 1810 and Vice President in 1813.
Edmund Randolph was a lawyer and veteran of the Revolutionary War who served in the Continental Congress. He was the 7th Governor of Virginia, and, in that capacity, led Virginia's delegation to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He presented the 15 "Resolves" of the Virginia Plan to the assembled delegates and served on the Committee of Detail which produced the first draft of the Constitution. He did not sign the Constitution, citing his disagreement with some of the changes to the Virginia Plan. However, he did support the Constitution during the Virginia ratification process. Washington appointed him Attorney General during his first term, and he succeeded Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State during Washington's second term.
Justice James Wilson was a Scottish-born lawyer and scholar. Wilson wrote an influential argument that Parliament's taxation of the American colonies was illegitimate because the colonies had no representation in Parliament. He was elected to the Continental Congress twice. In that capacity, he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a major contributor at the Constitutional Convention, where he served on the Committee of Detail (that produced the first draft of the Constitution). He is credited with being the principal author of the executive branch. As the first Professor of Law at the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), Wilson taught the first course on the new Constitution to Washington and his Cabinet in 1789-90. Washington named Wilson as one of the first Associate Justices to the Supreme Court. Wilson was the first Justice to die in office.
George Wythe was born into a wealthy Virginia planter family and became a lawyer and a representative in the Virginia colony's House of Burgesses. He was the first Virginian to sign the Declaration of Independence and served as a member of the Continental Congress. He participated in Virginia's Constitutional Convention as well as serving as a delegate to the federal Constitutional Convention in 1787. In addition to being a judge, he was on faculty at the College of William and Mary, where his students included both Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall. At the 1787 Convention, Wythe served as the chair of the Rules Committee. He left the Convention to care for his dying wife before signing the Constitution, but worked to ensure its ratification in Virginia. Increasingly uncomfortable with the institution of slavery, Wythe emancipated all of his slaves at the end of the Revolutionary War.
It should be a given: we should all agree every American citizen should be equal in the eyes of our law and our government. That is the promise of the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of our Constitution. If we truly believe all should be equal before the law, then we must also support systems that expand informed participation by our fellow citizens in our political process to the greatest extent possible. Legislative districts that are drawn improperly effectively disenfranchise large numbers of our fellow citizens across the political spectrum. Such districts are widespread and, I believe, unconstitutional. We should draw all legislative districts to provide incentives for both citizens and elected representatives to maximize informed participation in our political process.
It seems obvious that the overwhelming number of one-party districts is a major cause of the gridlock we are experiencing with our federal government. A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal estimated that 400 of the 435 congressional districts were dominated by a large majority of one-party. In these districts, the nominee of the majority party is virtually guaranteed to win the general election. Minority party voters are essentially disenfranchised. One-party districts reward candidates for appealing to the extreme members of their party who are reliable voters in primary elections. Ultimately, even moderate members of the majority party can be disenfranchised. Members of Congress from one-party districts have no incentive to compromise with the other party in the halls of Congress.
It’s bad enough that one-party districts produce Members of Congress unwilling to compromise, but they also enable public officials who do not have to care about what most of their constituents think. I live in a one-party district. In 2014, I suggested to my representative that he should modify his web site to better engage and inform people. My fear, I said, was that people did not have time to chase down the information necessary to be informed citizens, so they just wound up being sheep. His response: “We should let them be sheep.” There is no motivation for majority-party incumbents in one-party districts to improve the level of civic engagement and participation in their districts.
If we believe in our Constitution, and in the six purposes for our federal government enumerated therein, then building better legislative districts is one of the most important structural reforms we can accomplish. We can rebuild legislative districts at all levels to support the broadest possible scope of informed participation by our fellow citizens. Balanced districts, or districts with the closest possible balance between the parties, will provide incentives for all parties to encourage informed participation by the greatest number of our fellow citizens.
The first guiding principle enumerated in the Constitution claimed that one of the purposes of the government was "to form a more perfect Union." While it is easy for modern readers to dismiss this phrase as mere hyperbole--an expression of the desire to make America better than the traditional monarchies of the Old World--this phrase had direct and visceral importance to the delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Those delegates knew that the first constitution of the United States was failing, and they knew from painful experience why it was failing. In 1787, the phrase "to form a more perfect Union" had to be the first guiding principle because the union to be replaced was crumbling under Articles of Confederation that did not give the central government sufficient power to hold the United States together for much longer.
The Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation in November, 1777, and they were ratified by all thirteen states in 1781. The country they established was a confederation of 13 sovereign states. Each state controlled its own commerce and collected customs. Geographically fortunate states exploited their ability to control the flow of goods to and from less fortunate neighbors. The central government had no authority to collect customs. State legislatures were supposed to raise the money that funded the central government, but the central government had no authority to compel the states to pay anything or to provide any supplies. This put the Continental Army under a perpetual threat of disintegration during the Revolutionary War, and created post war financial pressures that ultimately led to Shay's Rebellion in late 1786. The failures of the Articles of Confederation, specifically a central government that was too weak to discharge its responsibilities, led directly to the effort to "form a more perfect Union."
Trump Lost PA Because He Got Fewer Votes...Other Republican Candidates Won... Same Voters, Same Ballots, Same Election
Rep Conor Lamb (D-PA) pointed out that the Pennsylvania election in November was carried out under a law crafted and passed by the Republican-led state legislature, and that some Republican candidates got more votes than Donald Trump did... on the same ballot and with the same voters. He pointed out that there were cameras, and observers, and that the election had been heavily scrutinized without finding evidence of any voter fraud that would have changed results. He points out that he presents these facts for the people of America, because he knows the Republicans in Congress, many from other states, are not interested in the truth but rather in cynically advancing a narrative that they know is not true and that caused the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday.