Tag Archives: Progressives

Chris Hayes and Progressives’ Lack of Respect for the Constitution

Chris Hayes and Progressives’ Lack of Respect for the ConstitutionLast week, conservatives in the Twitterverse had a good chuckle at the expense of MSNBC host Chris Hayes for something he said about the Electoral College on his show.“The weirdest thing about the Electoral College,” he offered, “is the fact that if it wasn't specifically in the Constitution for the presidency, it would be unconstitutional.”This is one of those things that sound a lot better in your head than they do coming out of your mouth! We’ve all been guilty of saying something similarly dumb, and most of us have probably been subjected to some good-natured ribbing over it. Hayes didn’t appreciate the ribbing, though, and took to Twitter a few days later to blast the entire conservative movement:> These days, conservatism is a movement deeply paranoid and pessimistic about its own appeal, increasingly retreating behind counter-majoritarian institutions: the senate, the courts, the electoral college.> > — Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 1, 2019> And so they are increasingly focused, as a matter of tactical and tribal fidelity, on ways to uphold minority rule. It’s a sad place for a movement to be.> > — Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 1, 2019I certainly agree that the Republican party needs to focus on broadening its appeal. But here’s the catch: Hayes’s armchair psychoanalysis notwithstanding, he is just plain wrong about the Constitution. And by that I do not mean that his breezy, clever-sounding point is actually a tautological non-sequitur. I mean that his underlying reasoning is false.Here’s his full original assertion:> The weirdest thing about the Electoral College is the fact that if it wasn't specifically in the Constitution for the presidency, it would be unconstitutional. Here’s what I mean by that. Starting in the 1960s, the Supreme Court started developing a jurisprudence of one person, one vote. The idea is that each individual vote has to carry roughly the same amount of weight as each other individual vote, which is a pretty intuitive concept, but is not a reality. There are all sorts of crazy representational systems that were created that would not give one person one vote, and that would disenfranchise certain minorities.If Hayes hadn’t been so glib, he might have said that the Electoral College runs contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. But, as I said, that is not true, either.The Supreme Court’s one-man-one-vote rule applies to state legislative elections and the House of Representatives, which makes sense in the constitutional scheme. The House of Representatives is the national institution of representation in our government. But our system is not wholly national. Here’s James Madison in Federalist No. 39:> The House of Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America; and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular State. So far the government is NATIONAL, not FEDERAL. The Senate, on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the existing Congress. So far the government is FEDERAL, not NATIONAL. The executive power will be derived from a very compound source. The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society.For these reasons, as well as others, Madison concludes, “The proposed Constitution . . . is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both.”So, Hayes is right in a very narrow sense: Neither the Senate nor the Electoral College would make any sense in a strictly national government where the states no longer had any sovereign function. At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, this is what Madison wanted, more or less: to strip the states of their power in national affairs. But it just could not pass muster, and the Convention embraced the compromise pushed by small-state delegates: a compound republic embracing both national and federal modes.This is really Civics 101, and I’m not at all sure how many pundits on the left fully understand it. I rarely if ever see prominent progressives seriously engage with The Federalist Papers or Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention. Sometimes I wonder if they even know to look in those places for explanations of our constitutional structure. I get the impression that they think the whole design is a product of simple-minded men who lacked their sophisticated views on government. Yet when you read through the original debates about the Constitution, it becomes clear that the Founders often thought through these issues more carefully than contemporary intellectuals.Why are they so intent on attacking the Constitution in this case, anyway? There are, after all, other ways to ameliorate the problem of divergence between the popular vote and the Electoral College. Each state’s apportionment is the sum of its House and Senate delegates. The size of the House of Representatives is not fixed at 435. That number could be expanded, which would be completely consistent with the Constitution — probably more so, as the founding generation was skeptical that large districts could actually be representative. An expanded House would alleviate the frustrations of the large states, and it might also mitigate the problem of money in politics.Moreover, why are states given a pass for allocating electors on a winner-take-all basis? Again, it is not required under the Constitution, and in the early days of the republic electors were often allocated on a proportional basis. If the 2016 election had been conducted on that basis, Hillary Clinton’s Electoral College haul would have gone from 227 to about 255 — not enough for her to win the required absolute majority under a 538-vote Electoral College, but perhaps enough to win such a majority of the larger electoral-vote total created by an expanded House.I do not like it when the Constitution is attacked in this way, but not because the Constitution is perfect. It is far from perfect. Nobody understood that better than Madison, who was at first deeply frustrated by the finished product. Yet when he started to see the criticisms of it, he noticed that they were scattershot, parochial, and sometimes even contradictory. He realized that the choice facing the country was not between the Constitution and some other alternative, but between the Constitution and chaos leading toward disunion.I think the same holds true today. We should respect the Constitution if for no other reason than that it may be the last thing still holding us together. Such respect does not necessitate that we blindly accept the institutions it bequeathed us as they are. But we should thoroughly understand it before we criticize it, because it deserves better than facile straw-man attacks — especially when, as in the case of the Electoral College, there are alternative remedies that could be pursued within its framework.



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'She is not a racist': Trump sides with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in spat with progressives

'She is not a racist': Trump sides with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in spat with progressivesPresident Donald Trump defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused her of criticizing 'women of color."



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Pelosi reportedly scolds progressives in closed-door meeting, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fires back

Pelosi reportedly scolds progressives in closed-door meeting, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fires backThe House speaker reportedly tells Democrat lawmakers to come to her with complaints instead of tweeting about them.



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Ocasio-Cortez responds after Pelosi dismisses young House progressives

Ocasio-Cortez responds after Pelosi dismisses young House progressivesNew York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fired back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who dismissed her and other progressives who voted against their chamber’s bill to send $ 4.6 billion in emergency aid to the U.S. southern border. “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi said, according to the New York Times. “That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Saturday.



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Warren has big lead among young progressives, NextGen poll finds

Warren has big lead among young progressives, NextGen poll findsSen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders have broken out as frontrunners for young voters, according to a new straw poll conducted by the progressive group NextGen, pulling ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden.



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Barack Obama warns progressives to avoid 'circular firing squad'

Barack Obama warns progressives to avoid 'circular firing squad'* Remarks come as Democrats battle for 2020 nomination * Former president was addressing young Europeans in GermanyBarack Obama addresses a town hall of young leaders from across Europe at an Obama Foundation event in Berlin, Germany, on Saturday. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/ReutersBarack Obama warned on Saturday that US progressives risk creating a “circular firing squad” at a time when prospective presidential candidates are competing fiercely against each other to run against Donald Trump.The former president was speaking in Berlin, at an Obama Foundation event.“One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States,” he said, “maybe it’s true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’ and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad’, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.“And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.”Sign up for the US morning briefingAmong Democrats, the field of prospective presidential nominees has swelled to nearly 20. All are eager to appeal to a party base pushed left in opposition to a hard-right president and motivated by success in the midterm elections.Championed by progressive luminaries including the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, policy ideas such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal have achieved rising prominence.On either side of the aisle, party primaries are traditionally brutal affairs in which candidates are tested against rivals from other wings or factions. The first debates of the 2020 Democratic contest are months away but fierce fire is already being directed towards some more centrist candidates.Obama’s former vice-president, Joe Biden, for example, has not yet entered the race but has nonetheless attracted attacks on his record over close to 50 years in national life, including previous stances on racial issues and women’s rights. He has also struggled to respond effectively to claims from a number of women that he made them physically uncomfortable.Among other candidates, the former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke has been attacked over a voting record on issues such as the environment and immigration which indicates a willingness to engage with Republicans.Kamala Harris, the California senator, has attracted broadsides over her prosecutorial record before she entered national politics.Republicans are of course seeking to stoke the flames of controversy themselves. Sarah Dolan, executive director of the America Rising political action committee, told the Guardian this weekend the group’s “mantra this cycle is really just to cause chaos, especially with how big the field is”.Barack Obama’s remarks in Berlin.In Germany, Obama also discussed the virtues and drawbacks of political compromise. He advised his audience of young Europeans to “take some time to think in your own mind and continually refine and reflect, ‘What are my core principles?’“Because the danger is if you don’t know what your principles are, that’s when you compromise your principles away.”He added: “You can’t set up a system in which you don’t compromise on anything, but you also can’t operate in a system where you compromise on everything.”Answering questions, Obama said progressives needed to think about remaining “true to our values and principles while recognising that in democracies … the only way we are going to be able to get things done is that we agree to a certain set of rules and part of those rules are that you never get 100% of what you want”.He cited the Paris climate agreement as an example of an imperfect deal achieved under his presidency with the aim of building on it later. Trump has withdrawn the US from the deal.



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Obama warns progressives to avoid 'circular firing squad' as Democrats prepare for 2020 showdown

Obama warns progressives to avoid 'circular firing squad' as Democrats prepare for 2020 showdownBarack Obama has urged progressives in the US to avoid becoming part of a “circular firing squad” that takes aim at people who do not share all their views.In what will be interpreted as a comment about the nature of the rivalry between different factions within the Democratic Party, the former president stressed the need for compromise.“The way we structure democracy requires you to take into account people who don’t agree with you,” he said at an event in Berlin hosted by the Obama Foundation. “And that, by definition, means you’re not going to get 100 per cent of what you want.”According to The Hill, he added: “One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States….is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’, and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a “circular firing squad”, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues. “And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.”The 2016 Democratic presidential primary was marked by often bitter hostility between the camps of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Supporters of the Vermont senator considered her a Wall Street sell-out, while many of those backing the former secretary of state believed Mr Sanders was out of touch and campaigned for unrealistic policies.As Democrats prepare to select a challenger to Donald Trump for 2020 – congressman Tim Ryan announced on Saturday he was joining the already crowded field – different factions are already becoming clear. Progressives such as Elizabeth Warren and Mr Sanders support policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.Others, such as Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker have adopted a more centrist position. With perhaps as many as 20 Democratic candidates running in 2020, there is already a energetic fight underway for supporters and donations, something that will intensify as the contest progresses. At the same time, Mr Obama said it was important for candidates to know what they stood for. “You should take some time to think in your own mind and continually refine and reflect, ‘What are my core principles’,” he said. “Because the danger is if you don’t know what your principles are, that’s when you compromise your principles away.”He added: “You can’t set up a system in which you don’t compromise on anything, but you also can’t operate in a system where you compromise on everything.”



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Democrats' civil war between progressives and moderates will bring 2020 Trump victory

Democrats' civil war between progressives and moderates will bring 2020 Trump victorySince the 2016 election, progressive and moderate Democrats have been unified by hatred of President Trump, but the cracks in the party are opening.



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Kavanaugh And Gorsuch Confirmations Force Progressives To Rethink The Supreme Court

Kavanaugh And Gorsuch Confirmations Force Progressives To Rethink The Supreme CourtThe recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and



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How a Conservative Supreme Court Could Actually Benefit Progressives

How a Conservative Supreme Court Could Actually Benefit ProgressivesAnd why change should not — and does not — start there



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