Saturday, 14 August 2010


The politician that has been in the news lately is that of Republican Congressional candidate for Arizona Ben Quayle, son of former Vice-President Dan Quayle.

One might think that the son of a well known former Vice-President would have no problems securing votes for his campaign considering that contributions to his campaign have been in the region of $1.1 million dollars, but as this Politico article and many other numerous on-line articles reveal there is much controversy surrounding this 33 year old candidate.

(watch for 2mins)

The above link shows Ben Quayle's campaign advert whereby he dubs President Obama as the "Worst President in history" and claims that "somebody has to go to Washington to knock the hell out of the place." As stated by Hardball presenter Chris Matthews there are countless former Presidents that one could nominate for "worst President". Matthews however only names Presidents from the past, a more recent inclusion in my opinion would be that of former President G.W. Bush who not only misled his country into war, but he messed up his country's economy, and left thousands of his citizens to suffer during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Like the Politico article suggests, Quayle's attack on Obama may be in order to detract potential voters (Aug 24th GOP primaries) from his own publicized revelations that have included his once being a contributing writer for DIRTY SCOTTSDALE which is a sex-themed website covering the club scene in Scottsdale. Although Quayle at first denied the allegations, he later confessed that he did post on the site in order to "try to drive some traffic" (I'm not sure what that means). Quayle has also been accused of misleading the public with regard to his family life as shown by a photo in the Mailer that pictured him with his wife Tiffany and two children with a quote by him saying that he and his wife live in the district (Phoenix) and plan to "raise our family there" however the two children in the photo turned out to be his nieces as the couple have no children.

The revelations uncovered against Quayle may pose a dent in his character considering that he claims to have been "raised right", but one thing I would have to state with regard to Quayle is that he is YOUNG (33yrs) and therefore what he had done in the past wouldn't have been so long ago. Bill Clinton, for example whilst running for President admitted to smoking pot whilst at College and many people weren't that bothered by it since it happened say 25yrs previously. In the case of Quayle however, his past mistakes are still fresh considering his age and this might be the deciding factor in the elections as people in my opinion will be thinking that he still has a lot of growing up to do.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


The link above is an article (with msnbc video below written article) that concerns the recent decision of the controversial Arizona Immigration Law that was originally signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in April 2010. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has allowed for the illegal immigrant law to take effect as of Thursday 29th July 2010, but the Judge has put a block on key parts of the law that had caused protests and boycotts against the state.

The key parts of the law that have been blocked by Judge Bolton include:

  • law requiring immigrants to carry papers at all times
  • Arizona police officers to check a person(s) immigration status
  • Police to make unwarranted arrests for suspected illegal immigrants

The judge ruled that it is a violation of a person(s) liberty to have to be stopped as a suspected illegal immigrant especially with regard to those who are legal immigrants or who are in the process of legal residency and/or citizenship.

Judge Bolton also stated the controversial law would:

  • interfere with federal immigration law that the states are not allowed to do.
  • it would require for police to do more checks on people suspected of being in the state illegally that it would "overwhelm the federal system and divert attention away from criminals and suspected terrorist"
  • Would lead to detention for people who are here legally including U.S. citizens while their immigration status was checked.

Gov, Brewer has stated that the state will appeal the judge's decision, but legal experts believe that it may take months before the appeal is heard by the Supreme Court.

I agree with the decision by Judge Bolton, in that the law enacted by Arizona would lead to racial profiling, but on the other hand I blame the federal government for allowing for the law to have been enacted in the first place. Vice President Joe Biden had stated in an interview for msnbc that the Judge made the right decision in so far as there cannot be so many states enforcing different laws for immigration (Texas and Utah were also going to impose their own immigration law if the Arizona law was passed) but Arizona wouldn't have gone this far in making a law if the federal government had dealt with their plight in the first place. It is evident that the state has a huge influx of illegal immigrants entering the state on a daily basis and they weren't getting the protection from the federal government so they as a state took matters into their own hands. However they should have thought about the law in a way that it would be protecting its citizens including that of its Hispanic citizens which I felt it failed to do. Tony Judt's view that the "state will soon be the problem" is correct when looking at the immigration law because now the federal government has to make sure that future issues that arise with states are not ignored but dealt with by the federal government or else states will start taking matters into their own hands and this is evident with the Arizona immigration law.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Reaction to immgration law

There has been an outcry towards the new Law by the sports world. Robert Menendez who is a Hispanic democrat senator for New Jersey has called for baseball players to boycott the 2011 All Star game which is to take place in Phoenix Arizona. Mr Menendez who was writing to Micheal Weiner the director of Major League Baseball stated:

'The Arizona law is offensive to Hispanics and all Americans because it codifies racial profiling into law by requiring police to question anyone who appears to be in the country illegally'

The public have also shown their disdain for the new Law the Observer reported:

'Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through at least 70 cities in America yesterday to protest against the new anti- immigration legislation in Arizona that they say discriminates against illegal immigrants and amounts to racial profiling of Hispanics. … In Los Angeles, an estimated 100,000 people were expected to have taken part in the demonstration yesterday. Organisers in the city, which has a larger Hispanic population, painted red and yellow signs that read “Todos Somoa Arizona” (We are all Arizona)'

Article can be found here:

We discussed in class whether we thought this legislation would change the amounts of immigrants coming into the country. The Observer reports:

'Regelio Cuvas is just the kind of migrant that the state of Arizona would like to keep out. A 39-year-old shop worker, he was deported from the U.S last week after spending 10 years in Los Angeles. Now he finds himself in the ramshackle Mexican border town of Nogales, just over 1,000 miles south of Phoenix, where lawmakers have passed draconian anti-immigrant legislation. … “It is not a good law. People can pick me up because they just see me in the street,” said Cuvas. But would it stop him making a bid return? “No, of course not,” he said, as of the question was absurd.'

The law is also affecting the stores in America. Many Mexican customers in Nogales who would do their shopping in the U.S no longer want to shop there.

'Lydia Medina, who workers in one of the drug shops, said she does not want to cross anymore. “Nobody I know is going over there,” she said. When asked for her reaction to the law, she threw up her hands and shouted one word: “Racist!”'

Article can be found here:

Although the new law is making some happy in Arizona as they feel the local government is making a stand against immigration. It is also causing many problems for Arizona and the Arizonian people. Boycotts will affect the economy and businesses. Tourism may also be affected as many feel negatively toward this legislation. Finally, it is unknown how affective this will prove to be in deporting illegal immigrants, but if we are to believe Mr Cuvas it will not stop people crossing the border.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Arizona Immigration law, signed 23-04-10

On April 23rd 2010, Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona, signed 'the nation's toughest Bill on illegal immigration' ( into law. Aimed at systematically identifying, prosecuting and deporting more illegal immigrants from the state of Arizona, the Bill risks racial profiling Hispanic immigrants, whether legal or illegal, and subjecting them to ultimately 'prodecural' discrimination. The New York Times also reported Cardinal Roger M Mahoney of Los Angeles saying that, 'the authorities’ ability to demand documents was like “Nazism.” ', ( Indeed, the demanding of citizens' proof will create unease and tension between Hispanic communities and authorities of Arizona. Arizona boasts a 30.1% (Census 2008) Hispanic population; a figure that can't be ignored or easily subjected to pressure from government.

The Border Action Network, a democratic, leftist group who I looked at in detail in previous weeks, immediately setup rallies and protests in retaliation against the Bill. As they stress on their website, the Bill is now headed for a federal court challenge because, '[it] would result in widespread, pervasive discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, with irreparable harm dealt to those who are unlawfully arrested under this unconstitutional law.'

A Gallup Poll, conducted between the 1st and 2nd of May this very year found the following,

The table shows just how important reform is concerning this issue amongst a polled proportion of Americans. It is clear from the table that specifically more 'control' (42%) of borders is important to Americans, and that those questioned expect this action from their government this year.

This is a politically polarizing issue. As mentioned both by Hannah and Cherie, President Obama has criticised Arizona's position on the matter. The success of this one State at passing a Bill could signal to other Governors of border States that they too should propose similar Bills because polls like the Gallup evidently record supportive Americans. With a large proportion of Hispanics choosing to vote Democrat, (67 voted Obama in 2008 -, Obama must adopt a sensitive position on the issue as potentially future elections rely on these voters.

Ultimately this law restricts the freedoms of legal Americans too. Regardless of whether an Hispanic is legal or not, they will be subject to inspection by policemen, who Brewer claims will be 'properly trained'. She goes on to say, 'We have to trust our law enforcement'. But with the cracks in law enforcement that came to light in 1991 in the Rodney King police brutality case, trust in law enforcement concerning racial profiling could appear fractured.

After the successful passing of the Healthcare Bill, Obama's focus now remains on passing an energy Bill concerning American industries and the environment. This current concern over immigration risks overshadowing Obama's energy Bill plans and encourages Americans to question what is more important, the control of current immigration 'problems' or the need to address American environment and world politics on Climate Change. A nationally focused issue versus an international one.

The Arizona Senate Primaries are scheduled for 24th August 2010. Where potential candidates situate themselves on this issue will be critical to their results. According to The Rasmussen Reports (, '"91% [of respondents] say a candidate's position on immigration is at least somewhat important to how they will vote, with 67% who say it is very important."
The Arizona race sees incumbent John McCain versus Conservative J.D. Hayworth. McCain has said,

''If you don't like the legislation that the legislature passed and the governor signed in Arizona, then carry out the federal responsibilities, which are to secure the border — you probably wouldn't have had this problem."

Hayworth has also said that he strongly backs the law but accuses McCain of changing his position on Immigration for strategical political gain. The divide in the GOP which this issue is producing, put pressure on such potential candidates as they assess their Conservative stance and loyalty.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Arizona Immigration Law

With illegal immigrants coming to the U.S. from all directions, it's heartening to see someone, somewhere is fed up and finally going to do something about it... When Washington continues to demonstrate an inability to deal with the crisis, isn't it a state's right and duty to protect its citizens? If the federal government fails to recognize the scope of the problem, then states must take the initiative. So congratulations to Arizonans. You have a governor and Legislature with your best interests at heart.

USA Today

The 2010 Arizona Immigration Law SB1070 which was passed in April was immediately criticised by President Obama. According to an article for USA Today ‘The main point of contention in the law is the responsibility given to local police to verify immigration status if there is a "reasonable suspicion" that a person is in the country illegally’.

The fundamental reason why this law has become so controversial, quickly leading to boycotts and protests, is a fear that it will cause racial profiling, which is a more than fair concern in my opinion. It is believed that there will be targeting of Latinos, which will instil unnecessary fear for people who were born here or are legal. Colombian singer Shakira condemned the law and voiced her worry ‘about the possible effects of the law on Hispanic victims of domestic abuse. "They're going to live in fear to call the police or to report a crime that has been inflicted to them," she said’.

Having discussed the American Civil Liberties Union before Easter, I was interested to research their reactions to this law. It seemed hardly surprising that when you first look at their website the first thing you find is a link to a page entitled ‘What Happens in Arizona, Stops in Arizona’.

The articles states that ‘We believe this law, which invites racial profiling in the worst way, is unconstitutional, and we will be challenging the law with a coalition of other civil rights groups’.

Obama has ordered a review to determine whether the law is constitutional; meanwhile there are some who support the law. An article for the Las Vegas Sun was written following the visit to Las Vegas from Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, who was there to defend the law. The issue is particularly resonant in Nevada because ‘Republican Assemblyman Chad Christensen, a long-shot candidate for U.S. Senate, is drafting a ballot initiative that would replicate the Arizona law in Nevada. Immigration is also a flashpoint in the governor’s race, with former federal Judge Brian Sandoval supporting the Arizona law and Gov. Jim Gibbons opposing it’.

The law has also had an effect on Marco Rubio, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate. Originally moderate on immigration laws but has now shifted and strongly supports the immigration laws. This shift has occurred as he wants support from the Tea-Party movement. This shift shows what an important issue immigration is becoming and one that is showing to be very significant in campaigns for seats in the U.S Senate.

Whilst I fully understand concerns that this law could cause racial profiling, I also am not shocked to read that 70% of Arizonans favoured the law. As the opening quote from USA Today highlights, immigration is one of the biggest issues in America which is yet to be successfully dealt with. It seems that this law has however given the problem a new focus and perhaps it will instigate a more immediate need to try and resolve it. Harry Reid who is the democratic Senate Majority Leader has outlined a proposal to that would increase border security and give some of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants a chance to earn citizenship.

As was written in USA Today

‘Until Washington makes the tough decisions to fix the nation's intolerable, unjust and mostly ignored immigration system, bad solutions like Arizona's will just keep on filling the vacuum'.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Arizona Immigration Law

According to the New York Times, in recent decades the United States has experienced the greatest wave of immigration since the 1920s. However, for the first time, illegal immigrants (many from bordering Mexico) are outnumbering legal immigrants and, in 2008, the estimate for illegal immigrants living in the USA was approaching 12,000,000 (source = In addition, the demographic profile of legal immigrants has changed significantly since the Immigration Act of 1965 - which amended the historic advantage afforded immigrants from Northern Europe under the quota system - and the Immigration Act of 1990, which expanded the quotas. This has led to an increasing number of immigrants from non-nativist ethnic/racial backgrounds especially those from South East Asia, India and South America. The combination of increased illegal immigration, and the racial/ethnic specificity of immigrants in recent decades, has created a backlash within the mainstream US in response to what is perceived as cultural and economic threats posed by ‘alien others’.

These tensions cross party boundaries and both Republican and Democratic politicians have responded to the fear amongst the electorate. In 1996, under Bill Clinton (1993-2001), laws were passed to strengthen the U.S. Border Patrol and erect fencing along the US-Mexican border. Also, Clinton’s welfare reforms cut social programmes for immigrants. George Bush (2001-2009) tried to pass a bi-partisan bill to deal with illegal immigration in 2007. However, this was not carried through as the US public were proven to be averse to any idea of granting legal status to any ‘illegals’ under any circumstances.

Although Barack Obama included immigration as an urgent policy issue in his campaign in 2008, it remained dormant until recently when Arizona ignited a firestorm by passing state legislation, contradictory to federal supremacy on the issue, which allows unprecedented authority to investigate and arrest suspected ‘illegals’. Other states, such as Kansas, Ohio and Georgia, are now considering following Arizona’s lead. Kris Kobach, a Kansas law professor, has been heavily involved in drafting Arizona’s legislation in order to help circumvent the federal government’s authority on the issue.

The Arizona law has created a split in the GOP between Republicans who support it and those, such as Jeb Bush, Rick Perry and Karl Rove, who are against. In addition, Kobach is himself exploiting the issue in the GOP primary for the Kansas secretary of state race. According to Mary Giovagnoli of the Immigration Policy Center (source:, '(The Arizona) law was very carefully crafted to track many provisions in federal law — it creates a plausible case for proponents to say we're not doing anything new.' Kobach responded that he's simply learned from his regular adversaries, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. 'They take the courts very seriously and recognize that the legal battles in the courtroom are every bit as important in political battles in Congress and in the state legislature' Kobach responded.(source:

The positive response from many to the Arizona law has galvanized Democrats and led the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, to declare that the Senate would act on an immigration bill this year. He suggested that a new immigration bill could be introduced before the end of May. Recently, a coalition of senior Senate Democrats laid out the scope of a proposed overhaul of immigration law - and appealed to Republicans to join them in pursuing it. In March, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, unveiled the outlines of a reform proposal which would require illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law before they could gain legal status, and also required all workers in the United States to carry a biometric identity card to prove that they are eligible to work. But, after the Arizona law was signed, Senator Graham declared that Congress should not try to act on such a 'divisive' subject in an election year, leaving the prospects for a bipartisan approach confused.

President Obama criticised the Arizona bill shortly before it was signed. The law, he said, threatened "to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe." (source: The president has signalled that he is seeking a way to allow illegal aliens to become legal, while imposing restrictions that would make immigration more orderly (." (source: The Arizona Legislature subsequently made changes to the law on 30th April 2010 which now explicitly bans the police from racial profiling and allows them to inquire about immigration status only of people they stop, detain or arrest in enforcing existing state law. But the new law now also includes civil violations of municipal codes as grounds to check papers, and opponents such as the ACLU were not appeased by the changes. However, public support for the Arizona bill has led the state’s Senator John McCain to endorse it despite previously refusing to back its more extreme measures. Russell Pearce, the state senator who wrote the law, cannot be dismissed as antithetical to the mainstrean position as he is also chairman of the Senate’s appropriation committee. As such, his influence extends to controlling the finance of bills.

The enactment of the Arizona law demonstrates the relative lack of political agency within the Arizona immigrant community and how politicians, in an election year, are willing to capitalise on immigration anxiety – particularly in key border states such as Arizona. According to Randal Archibold in a New York Times article (source:

‘More than a few Democrats took notice that Mr. Pearce, whose district is in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb, managed to win unanimous support for the bill from House Republicans, even from some moderates who had voiced misgivings about it. One of those moderates, State Representative Bill Konopnicki, Republican of Yuma, said planned amendments to address legal and other concerns never materialized. In the end, he said, “everybody was afraid to vote no on immigration.”’

Thus reflecting the extent to which moderate politicians are prepared to endorse legislation contradictory to their ethos in order to facilitate election goals. However, the Hispanic community, the biggest minority group in the USA, are a significant source of Democratic support. Any federal legislation antithetical to this important demographic group could therefore damage Democratic electoral prospects in the upcoming Congressional and Senatorial elections.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

New York Times Article: Thought Provoking

From the NY Times this week. A thought-provoking article by an American commentator on a British proposal re: a proposed political ethos. I didn't think it would relate to a blog task but, having read Hannah's post on the Greens, realised that it does. I refer to it in my comment on Hannah's 'Greens' but have posted here too because I'm interested in your views.

Not sure if the link above will work - it usually doesn't - so here's hoping.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Brady Campaign

I have decided to look at an anti gun group called the Brady Campaign. The link to the website is below:

The campaign was founded in 1974 by Mark Borinsky who was robbed and almost killed by a gunman. The group was known then as the National Council to Control Handguns. The name was changed three more times in 1980, 1983, and 1989. In 2001 the group settled on the Brady Campaign this was in dedication to Sarah and James Brady who lobbied for safer gun control. James Brady was press Secretary for President Reagan and was shot in the head during the attempt on his life. He survived, but was paralysed. The groups aim is to improve and introduce sensible gun laws. They also seek to prevent ‘dangerous’ people from gaining access to guns. Their mission statement states,

We are devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.

The Brady Campaign works within the political field to achieve these goals,

The Brady Campaign works to pass and enforce sensible federal and state gun laws, regulations, and public policies through grassroots activism, electing public officials who support common sense, gun laws, and increasing public awareness of gun violence.

The group does not just lobby for change it also helps the victims of gun crime and represents victims on court. Although the Brady Campaign is pro gun control it does not advocate a complete ban on all guns,

Brady believes that a safer America can be achieved without banning guns. We believe that law-abiding citizens should be able and keep firearms… we believe that those who do own guns ought to be held to the highest standards of safety. They should be well trained in the use of their weapons and they should be required to keep weapons secure, so that neither innocent children nor prohibited persons can get hold of them.

The group uses many shocking facts to highlight the problems with guns in America. In one section they list how many people have been killed by gun crime across the world,

In 2006, Guns murdered

18 in Austria

27 in Australia

59 in England and Wales

60 in Spain

190 in Canada

194 in Germany

10,177 in the United States

They also have a box at the top of the website that states how many American have been shot this year the number is currently, 23,204. The number shot today is already 104.

I feel the Brady Campaign is taking the right approach to getting America to support gun control. America is never going to support a ban on guns as they feel it is their right to own and use one, due to the Second Amendment. The group is left wing, but not so much so that it repels American in the middle of the political spectrum. Therefore by not advocating a ban on guns the group does not isolate itself. Many American support gun control, but would not be happy with a complete ban on firearms. With gun control being such a key, controversial, and highly debated issue and many gun cases appearing every day, see link below:

The Brady campaign still has a lot to lobby and campaign for, but has a good platform to do it from.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Green Party

The Green Party of the United States was created in 2001 from the Association of Green Parties and they are:

- Grassroots activists

- Environmentalists

- Advocates for Social Justice

- Nonviolent resisters

- Regular citizens who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics

The ‘About Us’ page on their website offers a clear description of their ideologies and explains that:

The Green Party of the United States is a federation of state Green Parties. Committed to environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organizing, Greens are renewing democracy without the support of corporate donors. Greens provide real solutions for real problems. Whether the issue is universal health care, corporate globalization, alternative energy, election reform or decent, living wages for workers, Greens have the courage and independence necessary to take on the powerful corporate interests. The Federal recognizes the Green Party of the United States as the official Green Party National Committee. We are partners with the European Federation of Green Parties and the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas.

This is the link to their website:

The Ten Key Values of the Green Party outline their stances on significant issues such as Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Equal Opportunity, Ecological Wisdom, Nonviolence, Decentralization, Community-Based Economics and Economic Justice, Feminism and Gender Equality, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, Future Focus and Sustainability.

Their opinions on these issues are not far different from many other left wing groups we have looked at however unsurprisingly, based on their name, there is a much stronger focus on the environment. The Green Party supports

a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems

I was interested to find an opinion piece by Cynthia McKinney – 2008 Green Party Presidential Candidate - on The Independent’s website from this Monday 15/3/10. A link to the piece is below:

I found this piece useful in offering the view of a prominent member of the Green Party on the Obama administration. However, I was surprised at quite how critical she is of Obama, considering the number of similarities between what his administration campaigned for and the Green Parties views.

Regarding our previous blog posts regarding US Senators, I should mention here that Ralph Nadar, who has run for President four times and twice with the Green Party, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Senator in Connecticut.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Progressive Group(s)

I have posted two Progressive groups for this blog because both these groups have united together in an effort to highlight the importance of affordable heath care for ALL Americans.
Democracy For America (DFA) founded by Howard Dean (D) in 2004 is a grassroots progressive political action community working (as is stated on their website) to:
"Change our country and the Democratic Party from the bottom-up. [DFA] provide campaign training, organising resources, and media exposure so their members have the power to support progressive issues and candidates up and down the ballot."
Likewise the mission of Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC):
"Works to elect bold progressive candidates to federal office and to help those candidates and their campaigns save money, work harder and win more often. We also advocate for bold leadership on the most important and pressing causes."
The link that I have posted below is from an article by CBS news that concerns an ad funded by DFA and PCCC members targeting moderate democrats such as Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont) for not supporting or including in his heath care bill a "public insurance option" a public option that he had previously been in favour of.
Baucus who is running the health care deliberations in a key Senate committee has already taking 1.7 million dollars in political contributions from the health care sector for the 2010 election cycle.
The ad that will air in Baucas's hometown of Montana as well as in Washington DC takes the case of Montana resident and family man Bing Perrine who has accumulated a $100,000 debt due to medical care for his congenial heart condition. Perrine states in the ad that if he had the option to buy into a public health insurance plan he wouldn't have been in so much debt and he poses the question to Baucus which is: "When you take millions of dollars from health and insurance interests that oppose reform and oppose giving families like mine the choice of a public option. I have to ask, whose side are you on?."
In my view this is a prime example of what DFA and PCCC want to avoid within government, that being, politicians like Max Baucus who talk the talk about affordable health care, but in reality they are not taking it seriously and therefore are surely not that interested in the welfare of working class Americans who are in desperate need for a liberal health care bill.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

New York Times: The Tea Party and the Constitution, 12/03/10

'Tea-ing Up the Constitution'

I realise we have moved away from Tea Party happenings lately but this week I came across this article on the New York Times which talks about the significance of Tea Partiers adopting the Constitution as part of their ideology:

The author of this piece, Adam Liptak, notes that,

'It is, of course, hard to say anything definitive about the Tea Party movement, a loose confederation of groups with no central leadership. But if there is a central theme to its understanding of the Constitution, it is that the nation’s founders knew what they were doing and that their work must be protected. “I think it’s some loose, ill-informed version of originalism, but it’s plausible,' said Professor Kramer.'

This version of 'originalism' suggests that the Constitutional text should be interpreted today as it was when it was written.
I found the data quoted below very interesting. The conservative, individualist reading of the Constitution is obviously very popular in the U.S, echoing strong patriotic values similar to Tea Party Movement characteristics.

'Surveys conducted by Quinnipiac University indicate that some 40 percent of Americans say the Supreme Court should employ originalism in interpreting the Constitution; slightly more say the court should take account of changing conditions.'

A good point that this article covers is that when the Constitution has been interpreted in American history, it is most often than not shaped by changing public opinion not a recurring progressive left or right majority. Nathaniel Persily, in the article however, suggests that The Tea Party Movement doesn't just adopt a single public 'ism' but many,

“The Tea Party movement is interesting in that there is a combination of localism, nativism and populism that we’ve seen at various points in America.”

Maybe this collection of 'isms' is another reason why the TPM is so hard to define and situate in American politics.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

The American Civil Liberties Union is one of the most prominent civil and liberal groups in the USA. Its two branches collectively have funding of over $130,000,000 p.a. (figure for 2008, source: ACLU website), the majority of which (almost 90%, source: ACLU website – figure for 2008) is received from public donations and membership fees. It is a non-profit making organisation whose stated objective is ‘to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States’ and its mission is to: ‘continue to tackle the thorniest issues confronting our nation— racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and censorship. The ACLU's mission remains realizing the promise of the Bill of Rights for all and expanding the reach of its guarantees to new areas’ (source: ACLU website). The organisation operates through litigation, legislation and community education.

Founded in 1920 by Crystal Eastman, Roger Baldwin, Albert DeSilver and Walter Nelles, the ACLU was the successor to the earlier National Civil Liberties Bureau - itself an offshoot of the American Union Against Militarism founded during the First World War (1914-1918) to oppose US involvement in the war and defend conscientious objectors. It currently has over 500,000 members (source: ACLU website).

Lawsuits brought by the ACLU have been influential in the evolution of Constitutional law (for list see ACLU website ‘Supreme Court’) as the ACLU provides legal assistance, and other support, in cases in which it considers civil liberties to be at risk. It is also engaged in lobbying elected officials and political activism. Although the ACLU has been critical of politicians and policies of both parties its ultra-liberal mandate aligns it far more with the Democrats than the Republicans. Its position on key issues is antithetical to social conservatism in every respect but it is also committed to protecting ‘individual freedoms’ (those words again) against overbearing government and it works toward supporting complete egalitarianism for every person. It is also involved in monitoring the US government’s compliance with international law on human rights and aims to protect non-citizens in that context.

The ACLU is active in promoting their position on (amongst others):
- Abolish the death penalty
- Liberalising laws on drug crime
- Pro-choice on abortion
- Preserving free speech
- Fighting discrimination against AIDs sufferers
- Protecting prisoner’s rights
- Ending racism
- Promoting religious freedom and maintaining separation between religion and state
- Anti technological surveillance
- Ending gender discrimination against women or gay/lesbian community
- Protect the politically disenfranchised (e.g. non citizens, illegal immigrants).

The ACLU is therefore the nemesis of the neo-conservatives – as Roy Moore (of So Help Me God fame) discovered. His vitriolic views on the organisation are personal as well as political as the ACLU famously brought the law case on the ‘Ten Commandments’ plaque which resulted in Moore being removed from office.

However, the organisation’s pro-individual/anti-government stance does not include a current remit to protect workers’ rights. This notable omission has evolved from the anti-Communist period which began in the 1940s and gained momentum throughout the Cold War (1945-1991). At the height of the US ‘collectivist’ period in the twentieth century (Progressive era to US entry into the Second World War in 1941), being a member of a socialist/leftist organisation was not demonised within American society. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ response to the Great Depression of the 1930s saw an unprecedented level of collectivism by the US government and labour movements involved in the implementation of the New Deal programmes.

In 1940, the ACLU formally banned communists from leadership or staff positions in the organisation and also took the position that it did not want communists as members. The board declared that it was ‘inappropriate for any person to serve on the governing committees of the Union or its staff, who is a member of any political organization which supports totalitarianism in any country, or who by his public declarations indicates his support of such a principle’. The purge, which was led by Roger Baldwin, himself a former supporter of communism, began with the ousting of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a member of both the Communist Party USA and the Industrial Workers of the World (source: ‘American Civil Liberties Union Records, The Roger Baldwin Years, 1917-1950: Finding Aid’,

Ironically, the ACLU was originally formed by leftist activists specifically to protect aliens threatened with deportation, U.S. nationals threatened with criminal charges for their communist or socialist activities and agendas, and the rights of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and other labour unions to meet and organise. That this most liberal of American organisations continues to omit workers’ rights from its agenda is suggestive of the pervasiveness of the ‘classlessness’ of American ideology myth, and also the persistence of the exceptionalism exploited to promote anti-left sentiment as a counter to the USSR during the Cold War. A sentiment in which Cold War propaganda aligning socialism with Communism continues to impact mainstream response to federal intervention/ programmes of all kinds.

Response to Katey's Blog on Border Action Network

Sorry all. I tried adding this as a comment but was thwarted by blogger's character limit. My dislike of Blogger continues apace......

Really interesting blog Katey. I tried accessing your link to the BAN site but it's not working. I suspect Blogger is to blame but the website was easy to find on Google.

Immigration is a huge subject in the American context but the same kinds of issues/responses manifest in Western Europe too - including our own country as we know. Economics is at the heart of the debate as always. The tide moves firmly from relatively poor toward relatively rich in global terms.

This group is interesting as it is both collectivist (unorthodox in the US context) but also adopts the very American ethos of 'self sufficiency' in order to maintain its 'independence'. The home page states:

'One of the key building blocks of Border Action Network is the principle of self-sufficiency. To ensure self-sufficiency Border Action Network members pay annual membership dues. By paying dues, our members build the organization's ability to grow, and also guarantee that the members of Border Action Network have control of our campaigns and goals, not any outside funding source.'

An anti-collectivist principle which is very 'American' but also suggests that they are positioning themselves outside the political mainstream. Considering their mandate that would seem appropriate as their aims are antithethical to the Constitutional principles which govern US society. The heart of which is the 'US citizen' and his/her relationship to the nation/state/etc.

Having looked at the detail of the organisation and it's stated mandate:

'(BAN) works with immigrant and border communities in southern Arizona to ensure that our rights are respected, our human dignity upheld and that our communities are healthy places to live.'

However, the group's actions and causes are overtly geared toward the protection of cross-border illegal immigrants. I couldn't find contact names on the site (interesting in itself) but all the images are of people of Hispanic ethnicity which suggests that this group is predominantly Hispanic, may be supported actively by 'illegals' as well as legal immigrants and may also fear reprisal if identities were revealed. Note that their current campaign is against a proposed Arizona anti-illegal immigration bill which they summarise as:

'Russell Pearce’s SB1070 (and similar House version HB2632) is the most far-reaching anti-immigrant bill ever introduced in the Arizona Legislature. The bill rolls together seven bills that Pearce has tried to push through the last few years but failed. This year, because of the governor and make-up of the legislature, this bill is likely to become law very quickly. Among other things, the bill:

o Creates an additional state crime of trespassing and gives law enforcement the authority to arrest someone if they have probable cause to believe they are undocumented;
o Ties the hands of local law enforcement by forcing them to prioritize immigration enforcement over other public safety responsibilities;
o Prohibits drivers from attempting to hire day laborers for the purpose of employment;
o Criminalizes transporting, harboring or shielding anyone if the person knows or disregards the fact that they are undocumented;
o Allows law enforcement to use a ruse to entrap a business owner into hiring undocumented immigrants and violating our state employer sanctions law'.

All of which is aimed at controlling illegal entry from Mexico.

The dominant view within the USA is still governed by the cultural interest of the dominant group (white, nativist, Euro, Protestant) but African-Americans are equally anti-immigration for economic and nativist reasons. Although the conservative media scare-monger, the feeling amongst the majority of Americans citizens (including those from other ethnic/racial backgrounds) is firmly against immigration from South America - and particularly from Mexico - for both cultural and economic reasons. Much of this is governed by ignorance of the role such illegals play in the economy and birth-rate of the USA.

The historic justification on which residence rights are claimed for Mexican citizens in Arizona (i.e. Mexican-American War in 1848) may be morally right but such historic justification doesn't go far when matched against the collective view of those who have 'owned' the region for the last 160+ years. These states are recognised by the global community as part of the USA - which is, of course, why economic migrants from Mexico are drawn to them in the first place.

In terms of leftist tradition, this group is difficult to situate. They are small and very particularised in their objectives. Also, those objectives are inconsistent with the impulse of US specificity by virtue of their 'raison d'etre'. They support the cause of non-citizens 'human rights' without claiming any affiliation with the citizenship rights granted specifically by the Constitution. This positions them outside the US political field as the Constitution is very specific in determining who is a citizen. As you say, Amendment 14:

'All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside'.

The same dictionary entry you used is also very specific about what 'naturalized' means in this context. The first definition mentioned is:

'to confer upon (an alien) the rights and privileges of a citizen'.

It doesn't get much more specific than that.

Note that the group avoids mention of the Consitution, I suspect for this reason. Human rights is a global issue and I think this group is a good example for debating how the Consitution works in that context though.

Democratic Senator Harry Reid for Nevada

I have chosen Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada in that his ideals coincide with the notions of what liberalism is. The key term that (in my opinion) defines the ideology of the term is the words Collectivism in that its not about caring for the individual as such but rather individuals as a whole and I think that Reid demonstrates this as Senator of Nevada.

Born in a small mining town called Searchlight, Nevada where he still resides, Reid (as is stated on his biography page) grew up on the Nevada values such as hard work and opportunity and this is what he brings to Nevada as their Senator the position he has held for the past twenty-five years.

By navigating his website, one can read about the successful achievements that he has done for his native state that includes:

Environment: March 10th 2010 Reid named Solar Champion of the Year by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) for his leadership in advancing the development of solar energy in Nevada and across the country. Reid has also allowed for A-Power Energy Generation Systems to build a wind turbine production and assembly plant in Nevada that will generate jobs within the industry for those in Nevada.

Jobs: As one can see from the above clip, President Obama's' signing of the Travel Promotion Act allows for private as well as public corporations within the state to generate money from tourists who visit the state. Although the well-known phrase "Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" highlights the so called 'Sin City' lifestyle that occurs within the state, is making sure that money will be continuously pumped into the state by tourists that will continue generating jobs thus securing the welfare of his residents.

Native Americans: Harry Reid has worked alongside Native Americans in an effort to ensure their legal rights that include issues relating to Indian Wtaer Settlements, and Indian Gaming Regulatory Acts.

Other accomplishements include issues relating to education, transportation, and the environment and the list continues.

Harry Reid is respected by both parties in Washington:
'His reputation for integrity and fairness has given the small state of Nevada a powerful voice in Congress.'

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Leftist group 'Border Action Network'

California freeway sign near the Mexican border.

(EDIT : Sorry about the faulty link previously published in this post. Here is the working link:

The leftist group I have chosen is 'Border Action Network', part of the coalition of the 'Open Borders Lobby', protesting a need for immigration reform in the United States and less control by the U.S. government in insisting the removal off 'illegal aliens'.
As we saw learnt in studying potential Republican 2010 candidates, immigration control is important to typical Republican, far right agendas. Limiting and resisting a continued influx of Mexicans and South Americans particularly is of major concern to the Right. Whilst Democrats realise this need to control immigration, the consensus is that it should not just be regulated but also managed effectively and respectfully; foreign relations being important.

Although the Border Action Network is not essentially a nationwide group, it is located dominantly in Southern Arizona, where illegal immigration is at its peak and where America fights constant pressure from desperate immigrants attempting to enter the country every day. Particularly appealing for improved human rights, Ban's website notes of the 'Twelve Political Principles' integral to their campaign:

1. Permanent Residency
2. Civil & Constitutional Rights
3. Workers Rights
4. Human Mobility
5. Family Unification
6. Education
7. Health Care
8. Healthy Communities
9. Dignified Housing
10. Civic Participation
11. Culture & Language
12. Dignity, Respect & Equality

BAN notes that these principles are applicable to human rights in America as a whole, but with closer attention it is clear that immigration is the overall theme. Reform and progressive initiatives are mentioned; features of democracy and liberalism. 'Permanent Residency' being the first principle, highlights a need for an end to the instability of immigrant 'drifters' within American society and that recognisable status should be allocated to them. Indeed, the fact that this group has surfaced in Arizona suggests that citizens within the state feel a responsibility to act on immigration issues because it the effects of bad policy is evident within every day life.

The Discover The Networks website that I came across describes BAN as follows,

BAN calls for unchecked, unregulated migration into and out of the United States. This objective is founded on the premise that North, Central, and South America were wrongfully conquered by European invaders, and that consequently the United States is, at its root, an illegitimate entity with no right to delineate borders or to impose migration restrictions on anyone.

This concept, of open borders and rights for people who are currently referred to as 'illegal citizens' would allow the increased mobility of South Americans into the United States. The manifestation of racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia linked to immigration from these areas is evident today within the U.S., yet BAN explains that this is the case because of political stigma generated from anti-immigration Republican rhetoric. To some, the United State's treatment of immigrants may indeed seem hypocritical and reflective of a past where Native Americans faced also faced separation from their land, but Americans believe they have a culture to protect.

In the constitution itself, direct reference to the legislating of immigration is absent and only in Amendment 14, Section 1 to the Constitution is any hint of it apparent:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

A Conservative, individualist interpretation of this extract would suggest that because immigration is not mentioned it is therefore not permitted and that to become a U.S citizen one must have been born in the U.S. Another more Liberal interpretation would suggest that the mention of 'naturalization' insists that immigration is accepted. This can be supported by reminding oneself of the meaning of 'naturalised':

'to introduce or adopt (foreign practices, words, etc.) into a country or into general use'

Traditions of Immigration in American society and politics is dominated by the great movement of people from Europe to the U.S. in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The concerns that 9/11 raised about foreign agencies within the U.S. has caused an association of Immigration south of the border with terrorism and fear. BAN ultimately serves to protect the Civil Liberties that immigrants entering the U.S. rightfully acquire.

Also, I found this article about the funding of Left Wing groups (although bias) it is interesting. It could be said that funding by such groups as the Tides or Ford Foundations promote the First Amendment to the Constitution in facilitating groups to ultimately '... petition the Government for a redress of grievances.' These foundations are also tax exempt which made me question why so? Because government wishes to encourage grass roots, radical or community action?

Monday, 8 March 2010

The next Republican candidate

Hi everyone,

Thought this might be interesting. Here is a recent poll from the Guardian on who their readers think will be the next Republican nominee. I will let you see for yourselves. Link below.


Sunday, 7 March 2010

John Kerry

I have chosen to look at John Kerry who is one of the senators from the state of Massachusetts. Kerry who ran for president in 2004, but was beaten by Bush has been a senator since 1984. He was born in Colorado, but later settled in Massachusetts with his family. Kerry is a strong Catholic his website states,

“Growing up there, his parents taught his the values of service and responsibility and the blessings of his Catholic faith, lessons John Kerry carries with him to this day.”

Kerry is a Vietnam veteran. He attended college at Yale, but then decided to join the fight in Vietnam,

“John Kerry Volunteered to serve in Vietnam, because, as he later said, “It was the right thing to do.” He believed that “to whom much is given, much is required.” John Kerry served two tours of duty. On his second tour, he volunteered to serve on a swift boat in the river deltas, one of the most dangerous assignments in the war. He was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts.”

John Kerry’s website tells the reader that when John Kerry Joined the Senate he entered it with,

“John Kerry entered the Senate with a reputation as a man of conviction; He confirmed that reputation by taking bold decisions on important issues. He helped provide health insurance for millions of low-income children. He has fought to improve public education, protect our natural environment, and strengthen our economy.”

All quotes above from:

Kerry has married twice both times to wealthy women. His current wife is Teresa Heinz Kerry and as you can tell by that name she is involved with the Heinz Corporation. In fact she is more than involved as,

“Teresa Heinz, who has lost her husband, Senator Richard Heinz, in a plane crash and had inherited his canned food and ketchup fortune.”

As stated above Kerry then went on to run for President against incumbent George Bush in 2004. Although the election was close Kerry eventually lost out to Bush 48% of the electoral vote to Bushes 51%. Kerry’s main problem was the label Bush attacked him on. Kerry was often referred to by Bush as someone who would ‘flip flop’ on important issues,

“And he was mercilessly attacked by the Bush campaign for allegedly changing his mind on major issues, including the war in Iraq.”

As Kerry is a democrat in Massachusetts he is considered a liberal,

“On Social issues, Kerry is generally liberal. He is regarded as “solid” by environmentalists, and is in favour of abortion rights and more action to improve healthcare. He backs civil unions for gays, but not gay marriages.”

All quotes and stats from above:

Here is a list of issues and where Kerry stands:

Abortion: Does not personally agree with abortion but believes it is a women’s right to choose.

Civil Rights: Strong on civil rights supports women getting equal pay and believed the patriot act abused people’s civil liberties.

Gay marriage: Does not personally believe in gay marriage but supports couples rights to have civil unions.

Quotes as saying “Chaney’s daughter, a lesbian, would say gay is not a choice” (Oct, 2004)

Businesses: Supports small business

Death Penalty: "Opposes death penalty except for post 9/11 terrorists" (July, 2004)

Environment: Supports the environment

Gun Control: Supports gun control

Heath Care: Wants health care changed

"Fight for affordable healthcare for all children" (Jun 2006)

Voting Record: Finally John is a loyal Democrat voting with the party ‘93.5% of 306 votes’. Sept 2007

All from:

You can apply liberalism to John Kerry as he does fight to protect the liberties of the people he represents. He supports minority groups, such as, women and fights to make sure they receive equal pay. He ia pro choice even though he does not personally agree with abortion. His stance on the death penalty, environment, and small businesses show his liberalist nature.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

What makes a Democrat? What makes a Republican?

Rather than comment on our individual posts this week I thought I would express a general observation which struck me as I read through the various blogs. The diversity of positions taken on so many issues amongst US politicians is such that it is difficult to determine how some political representatives identify with a specific party. Is this simply a product of the 'two-party' system? It is almost as if the USA is in need of a third party to fill the increasingly over-crowded middle ground between the extremes of the other two.

Also, the local specificity which creates the diversity of views expressed within a single political 'package' (be it presidential, senatorial or congressional) is very striking. It adds support to my suspicion that the Constitution assumed a continuation of the homogeneity which existed at the time of Independence and the political system created from that assumption is not able to fulfill the needs of a hugely expanded, diverse and geographically (and demographically) polarised population.

It also occurred to me that the almost 'machine-gun like' scattering of views is even more apparent in Congress than in the Senate. I am beginning to understand why deadlock is an increasing force in US political life.

Eugene (Gene) Taylor - Democratic Congressman - Mississippi

Eugene (Gene) Taylor (House Representative - D-Mississippi) may appear an unusual choice for this week’s subject on prominent Democrats, but I have chosen him because he is so atypical for a ‘liberal’ (quotes used advisedly as you will see). What is so striking is his economic and social conservatism (as well as his location) – particularly on the issues which are often highlighted as separating the ‘liberal’ Democrats from the ‘conservative’ Republicans. He is therefore an example of how nuanced American politics has become and also of the importance of the ‘local’ in the U.S. political system. Although a Democrat, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, he represents one of the most conservative districts in the whole country (number 20 most Republican from a total of 435) but has still maintained his congressional seat since 1989:

In the context of the liberal versus conservative debate, Taylor is extremely conservative on most social issues:

- Pro-life (he is a Catholic)
- Anti legislation promoting gay rights
- Pro gun rights
- Pro death penalty
- Hard line on crime, drugs and immigration
- Generally pro environmental reform but anti Cap-and-Trade
- He is also considered ideologically against the separation of state and religion (

His stance on economic issues is more nuanced unlike his conservative attitude toward national security:

- Anti trade union
- Very protectionist (anti free trade)
- Pro a balanced budget so generally anti tax cuts
- Pro controlling campaign financing
- Pro political reform
- Generally opposed to Obama’s healthcare reforms but pro federal support for prescriptions, pro Medicare and pro dropping restrictions on health insurer competitiveness
- Very pro military spending and veteran benefits
- Pro security
- Pro government fiscal responsibility
- Pro business – so generally anti employee rights but pro raising the minimum wage,

He is also a member of the ‘Blue dog Coalition’:

This is a Congressional group of conservative Democrats which acts collectively in order to provide a block of support to promote many of their shared views. It has become a political force to contend with as the group often votes as a ‘bloc’ and therefore may represent the difference between success/failure to enact legislation. It is also worth mentioning that this group has stated aims of acting for the benefit of bi-partisanship over ideology and often work as the ‘centre ground’ to create sufficient compromise to break deadlocks within the House.

However, the group receives a large percentage of its funding from the health care industry which suggests that the Blue Dogs general stance against healthcare reform may be more than just a representation of their voters’ preferences.

In general, therefore, he is more against ‘big government’ than for it
and more individualist than collectivist. His support of federal initiatives is very targeted toward those which reflect the preferences of his demographically specific electorate (white, working class, conservative). Given the extent of his conservatism, I am surprised that he hasn’t ‘crossed the floor’ so would be interested in examining why he retains his affiliation to the Democrats.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Republican incumbents not ‘Right’ enough

Hi everyone, I have found an interesting article illustrating the rise of the far right Republicans. It was written by Ewen MacAskill for the Guardian:

The race for governor of Texas was decided Tuesday and the just as in Massachusetts the incumbent lost. Kay Bailey Hutchinson who is a senator in Texas and was also governor was beaten by Rick Perry a far right candidate. MacAskill states that,

Hutchison is no moderate Republican and was sufficiently conservative to secure the backing of Dick Cheney, a former vice- president. But even she was outflanked on the right by Perry, who benefited from the wave of populist conservative anger.”

This shows the rise of the far right as not even right winged Republican incumbents are safe from this up roar from tea party activists. MacAskill suggests that this results as well as the one that occurred in Massachusetts is not a one off,

“The results suggest a shift to the right lies ahead in the Republican party both in congress and among governors."

"Moderate Republicans face being displaced by more rightwing candidates, backed by Tea Party activists and others who complain the Republican Party has betrayed its core principles."

These Tea Party voters do not just appose Barrack Obama and his agenda they also blame the Republican Party for their discontent. MacAskill continues to say,

“These righwingers oppose federal government spending under Barrack Obama, the proposed healthcare bill and immigration reform, and blame Republicans for failing to oppose the spending.”

This discontent is being felt all around America and Republicans are demanding change. With many votes coming up Republican candidates are fighting hard to keep their seats. MacAskill states that,

“The result in Texas is ominous for candidates such as the Republicans governor in Florida, Charlie Crist, who is trailing in the polls behind Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favourite. Even the Republican candidate in the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain, is having to fight to save his Arizona Senate seat.”

It will be interesting to see in the coming months how these races turnout and the true effect of the Tea Party movement.