Congressional Representatives Should Secure Rights, Not Interests

In the vernacular, the role of representatives is most often understood in terms of how they service the interests of the polity: the average citizen is busy and involved in his or her own life and has neither the time, inclination or requisite knowledge to make informed political choices. Or so the reasoning goes. Enter the representative, who fulfills one of two roles, depending upon whether one buys into the delegate or trustee model of…

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Partisan Litmus Tests Reinforce the Very Culture They Attempt to Undermine

The contemporary political era is one in which the tired old cliché “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” has become a guiding maxim. If the populace — acting in concert as one united entity — comes to a consensus over the unacceptability of an issue, failure by individual politicians to adequately demonstrate the appropriate level of consternation at the outrage du jour becomes tantamount to that individual being complicit with the offending actor. This culture has come…

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Is National Security Replacing the Commerce Clause as the Basis for Sweeping Federal Power?

The falling away of federalistic principles from government is often linked to the increasingly nationalistic scope of politics. Under the auspices of the commerce clause and the “necessary and proper” clause, federal government officials have been able to rationalize their claim to final regulatory authority over an increasingly wide swathe of issues. The commerce clause gives Congress power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States”. The necessary and proper clause is…

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The Shutdown Highlights Oligarchic Attitudes in Government

There is perhaps nothing so indicative of an increasingly oligarchic trend in government as language from politicians signaling their actions are oriented around what is most convenient to others of their ranks. By way of example, a recent story in Roll Call detailed how, in the waning hours before the government shutdown took effect, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) attempted to broker a three-week stop-gap spending measure. Though one might hope his motivation was some respect…

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Re-establishing federalism starts with divorcing national politics from elections

If one believes that many of the shortcomings of today’s politics can ultimately be traced to the abandonment of federalist principles—as tends to typify certain strains of right-wing thought—then the trend in national elections, which primarily subjects candidates running for federal office to scrutiny by other elected officials rather than to the judgment of their constituents, should be an alarming one. It is perhaps telling that while many descry the influence of outside actors, particularly…

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Presidential Deal-Brokering Threatens Rule of Law

The president has no legislative power. This is confirmed not only by the lack of language in Article II of the Constitution granting the president authority to issue laws, even in times when they may be exigently needed, but also in the rather explicit clause of Article I, Section 1, which states that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and…

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Division Within Congress Is Necessary

By dint of that air of moral supremacy carried by the members of a majority in a nation that gives over ultimate power to the judgment of the people, the pinnacle of modern American political virtue is bipartisan collaboration. In uniting to serve “the common good” — an ill-defined term, the imprecision of which is compounded by questions of how the polity is constructed at a national level — politicians evoke that spirit of communitarian…

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