US General Election 2016

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by chris63 on Fri May 15, 2015 9:57 am


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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Eldorion on Fri May 15, 2015 3:04 pm

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun May 17, 2015 10:31 am

Interesting article from the BBC news site questioning whether the US President is really a monarch in disguise-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32741802

Particularly liked this bit-

Some commentators went even further, insisting that although America claimed to be a republic, because it had no hereditary sovereign, it was in reality a disguised monarchy - whereas Britain might claim to be a monarchy, because it had a royal head of state, but it was in fact a concealed republic, because the politicians rather than the sovereign were actually in charge. In the words of one late 19th Century American newspaper: "Great Britain is a republic, with a hereditary president, while the United States is a monarchy with an elective king."

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by halfwise on Sun May 17, 2015 12:25 pm

That's about right. There was a historical battle over how strong a president should be, and it was decided that in some aspects the decisiveness of a single person was necessary to ensure success. Mainly in matters of foreign policy and war. This is why presidents frustrated on domestic policy often try to make their mark abroad.

George Washington was careful to give the presidency imperial trappings, so that the post would be taken seriously. Thomas Jefferson backed off from that, and eventually we've settled into a sort of semi-royal etiquette which is not seen on Downing street.

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 17, 2015 4:21 pm

The article seems awfully hung up on the fact that POTUS is both head of state and government, while ignoring the fact that head of state is pretty much a purely ceremonial position. If you just compare their roles as head of government, the Prime Minister of the UK is vastly more powerful within their own country than POTUS due to the fusion of powers.

I agree that US election campaigns are way too long, though.
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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 17, 2015 4:31 pm

BBC Magazine wrote:But ironically, when the leaders of the American Revolution tried to work out what powers they should give to the newly created American presidency, the only models available were those of contemporary European monarchies, and especially the British. And so the founding fathers gave to the American presidency just those powers they erroneously believed King George III still possessed - to appoint and dismiss his cabinet, to make war and peace, and to veto bills sent up by the legislature.

Huh?  The article posits that the revolutionaries were mistaken about the extent of the powers George III possessed -- which I don't think is entirely true, even if that's what they put in the Declaration* -- and then they claim that the authors of the constitution decided to give those exact same tyrannical powers to the President because George III supposedly had them?  No, they didn't.  Let's look at the Federalist Papers.

Here's James Madison (the primary author of the US Constitution), writing in Federalist No. 47:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system. I persuade myself, however, that it will be made apparent to every one, that the charge cannot be supported, and that the maxim on which it relies has been totally misconceived and misapplied. In order to form correct ideas on this important subject, it will be proper to investigate the sense in which the preservation of liberty requires that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct. The oracle who is always consulted and cited on this subject is the celebrated Montesquieu. If he be not the author of this invaluable precept in the science of politics, he has the merit at least of displaying and recommending it most effectually to the attention of mankind. Let us endeavor, in the first place, to ascertain his meaning on this point. The British Constitution was to Montesquieu what Homer has been to the didactic writers on epic poetry. As the latter have considered the work of the immortal bard as the perfect model from which the principles and rules of the epic art were to be drawn, and by which all similar works were to be judged, so this great political critic appears to have viewed the Constitution of England as the standard, or to use his own expression, as the mirror of political liberty; and to have delivered, in the form of elementary truths, the several characteristic principles of that particular system. That we may be sure, then, not to mistake his meaning in this case, let us recur to the source from which the maxim was drawn.

On the slightest view of the British Constitution, we must perceive that the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments are by no means totally separate and distinct from each other. The executive magistrate forms an integral part of the legislative authority. He alone has the prerogative of making treaties with foreign sovereigns, which, when made, have, under certain limitations, the force of legislative acts. All the members of the judiciary department are appointed by him, can be removed by him on the address of the two Houses of Parliament, and form, when he pleases to consult them, one of his constitutional councils. One branch of the legislative department forms also a great constitutional council to the executive chief, as, on another hand, it is the sole depositary of judicial power in cases of impeachment, and is invested with the supreme appellate jurisdiction in all other cases. The judges, again, are so far connected with the legislative department as often to attend and participate in its deliberations, though not admitted to a legislative vote. From these facts, by which Montesquieu was guided, it may clearly be inferred that, in saying "There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates,'' or, "if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers,'' he did not mean that these departments ought to have no PARTIAL AGENCY in, or no CONTROL over, the acts of each other. His meaning, as his own words import, and still more conclusively as illustrated by the example in his eye, can amount to no more than this, that where the WHOLE power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the WHOLE power of another department, the fundamental principles of a free constitution are subverted. This would have been the case in the constitution examined by him, if the king, who is the sole executive magistrate, had possessed also the complete legislative power, or the supreme administration of justice; or if the entire legislative body had possessed the supreme judiciary, or the supreme executive authority.

Note the deliberate differences from the British Constitution, and also the well-informed references to Montesquieu, reflective of the Enlightenment origins of the American Revolution's homegrown philosophers, coupled with a critique of the British model in practice based on the Americans' own experience living under that system.  Note also that the US Constitution was written in response to the failures of the Articles of Confederation (America's first constitution), which did not have a powerful executive separate from the legislature.  So the founders had even more immediate experience of the shortfalls of an unchecked legislature, though of course there were plenty of other things that contributed to the failure of the Articles of Confederation.

The US Constitution didn't create the office of the Presidency because they Founders had a hard-on for monarchs (except Hamilton).  They created a strong President as a counter-balance to an out-of-control legislature that, because of the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty, no longer had any checks or balances upon it.  If the revolutionaries over-estimated the extent of George III's powers, they certainly did not replicate all of the powers they ascribed to him.  See for example the above complaint about treaties, which in the US require separate approval from the executive and the legislature.  But they also created a strong legislature that respected the rights of "backbenchers" (not a term even in use in the US) and gave it far more autonomy from the current government than Britain's has.

*To the best of my knowledge, the term "King-in-Council" was not in use in the 1780s, probably because the British system was still evolving towards full democracy and the office of Prime Minister and the Cabinet were still quite young (Peel being only like half a century removed at this point).  But I do think that you can accurately substitute "King-in-Council" for some uses of the term King.  And this criticism of the mixture of powers has remained relevant even through the changes to the British constitution in the past 230 years.  Just to reiterate what I said on the last page, the fusion of powers and the greater control British parties exercise over their MPs has created a vastly more powerful head of government in the PM, who can act more or less unilaterally in ways the POTUS can only dream of.  Executive orders are but a pale imitation of that kind of power.


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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Bluebottle on Sun May 17, 2015 5:05 pm

I'll say one thing for the US solution to a political system. It's finely crated to make sure politicians get as little as possible done. (Which, considering your average politican, might not be a bad thing.)

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 17, 2015 5:10 pm

Not sure if you're serious or poking fun, Blue, but that too is deliberate.  From Federalist No. 10 (Madison again):

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

Translating out of 18th centuryese:

The problem of factions (parties) is intractable in democracy, where a simple majority of citizens can always trample over the rights of any minority. Sometimes you may find enlightened leaders who willingly limit the worst excesses of their followers, but generally speaking, you can't trust that a majority faction won't oppress the minority if they have the opportunity to do so. Therefore, in a republic, an institutional solution is required to prevent the majority from wielding too much power [said solution being to make power difficult to wield, period].

You can offer criticisms of this notion, but I'd suggest our British members first reflect on their reactions to the Tories' current legislative plans after having won a narrow majority in the House of Commons. Razz Although it must be conceded that the American model has not fully lived up to Madison's hopes, in that we do still have parties (including one that Madison himself helped found), and more recent Presidents have found workarounds to some of the constitutional limitations, though by no means all of them.
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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by halfwise on Sun May 17, 2015 5:25 pm

It's not clear what Madison thought the solution to an oppressive majority finally turns out to be.  The only thing I see in the constitution is the support of regionalism in the senate, and the power of pardon in the president. Just making it difficult to wield power is not such a clear solution to me. Most of what slows down the government seems to be built into congressional procedure, not the constitution.

It's always a both a pleasure and a shock to read the Federalist Papers and realize again just how literate and intellectual politicians of over 200 years ago were compared to our current crop.  Of course, they weren't really politicians yet....

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 17, 2015 5:31 pm

Agreed.  The Federalist Papers are always fascinating and should really be required reading in high school social studies courses.  I recommend to anyone who wants to understand the US political system or our constitution.

The mere fact that the President and Congress are separate is the biggest check against an oppressive majority.  There's no "President-in-Council" where the President just signs bills that he's told to by the Congressional leadership.  Though I agree that Congressional procedure, especially the weakness of the whipping system, is also a very important factor.  Look also at the separation of powers between the federal government and the states, though, which requires not just one majority but many majorities to exercise control over the whole country.  Although what the framers failed to anticipate here was local oppression by a majority in one state, which did not receive a constitutional remedy until the Fourteenth Amendment, and then had to wait another century for said remedy to be consistently applied.
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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Bluebottle on Sun May 17, 2015 5:40 pm

Oh, it was meant seriously. Smile Although perhaps not written in a tone most fit for serious political debate. I do find the US solution of how to build a political system interesting, although a bit strange as it shows a lack of faith in just about everybody. But, then again, that might not be a bad idea. The Norwegian constitution was drafted with much inspiration from the American one, but it's interesting to see how the political context dragged us in different directions. With a foreign monarch our system was very much dragged in the direction of strengthening parliment, as the executive part of the governement obviously represented the foreign monarch. And after 70 years of power struggle we ended up with a parlimentaristic system, where the encubamt executive branch of the governement has to have support of the majority in parliment. We have negative parlamentarism, meaning the governement doesn't have to have a majority support as such, but can be voted out by the majority. Parlimentarism growing out of monarchy, I guess that's quite usual in Europe. You obviosuly had different outward circumstandes. Our circumstances led to parliment very much being seen as the representation of the people in politics, and as a consequense a skewing of power in their favour.

Another solution to the political system that intrigues me is the ancien Greek one of seeing governance as a civic duty and picking politicians by lots. You might say, but what if someone who is unsuited gets picked? Well, he will be constrained by the others picked. That system always intrigued me anyway, and it seems toi share some of the skepticism of major actions being taken by politicians as your system.

Thanks for the quote. Smile

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by halfwise on Sun May 17, 2015 5:46 pm

The Greek system works in city-states, not sure it scales to modern nations. Much as I like the idea of enforced civil service, there's an awful lot of dingbats around. Seems to work best in the military where there's a strong system of enforcement set up with not a lot of free will.

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Bluebottle on Sun May 17, 2015 5:56 pm

Yeah, feasibility is a question of course. There's jsut something about the idea of the career politician. And giving power to those who seek it isn't necessarily always a  good thing. That's not to say there aren't decent people in politics, but.. yeah. I guess your system works against that in other ways, as you have demonstrated.

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun May 17, 2015 6:23 pm

What does POTUS mean and where does it come from?- the first time I consciously encountered the term was watching Veep, and for a couple of episodes I thought it was the Presidents actual name! Embarassed Mad

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by halfwise on Sun May 17, 2015 6:30 pm

President Of The United States. It's been used by the Secret Service for years, finally got out a couple decades ago and now everyone uses it. It's accompanied by FLOTUS (First Lady...) but not sure if they use VOTUS for the vice president.

EDIT: on research, I see the term has been around a while, even going back to a telegrapher in 1879, who came up with a lot of shorthand. But I don't think it became popularized until the term was used by the Secret Service in movies, which echoed the reality.

http://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/12/magazine/on-language-potus-and-flotus.html


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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun May 17, 2015 6:35 pm

President Of The United States.- Halfy

:facepalm: I really should have worked that one out Embarassed Mad

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by bungobaggins on Mon May 18, 2015 3:39 am

Voters Guide 2016:


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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 31, 2015 6:01 pm

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Bluebottle on Sun May 31, 2015 6:13 pm

Who are they? The one's with a sense of humour. Nod  Laughing

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by David H on Sun May 31, 2015 6:48 pm

I think we're looking at the demographic who think Eisenhower is doing a pretty good job. Wink

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Eldorion on Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:04 am

David H wrote:I think we're looking at the demographic who think Eisenhower is doing a pretty good job. Wink

I dunno what you're talking about. I'm definitely voting for Adlai Stevenson next time.
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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Bluebottle on Mon Jun 01, 2015 1:55 pm

#makeJohnAdamsaonetermPresident

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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by bungobaggins on Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:52 pm


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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by Eldorion on Tue Jun 16, 2015 9:47 pm

I want to see Trump in a primary debate. Laughing
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Re: US General Election 2016

Post by bungobaggins on Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:04 pm

I'd watch it. Send in the clowns!

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