Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Expatriation Act

At The Los Angeles Times, Richard Simon reports:
Daniel Swalm was researching his family when he came across a disturbing episode in immigration history. That discovery would lead to a move in the U.S. Senate to apologize for action the nation took more than a century ago.
Swalm discovered that under an obscure 1907 law, his grandmother Elsie, born and raised in Minnesota, was stripped of her U.S. citizenship after marrying an immigrant from Sweden.
Swalm had never heard of the Expatriation Act that required a U.S.-born woman who married a foreigner to "take the nationality of her husband."
...
The law, passed at a time of heightened anxiety over the growing numbers of "new immigrants" from eastern and southern Europe, came in response to a belief that U.S.-born women marrying foreigners were forsaking their allegiance to the United States, [UNC historian Candice] Bredbenner said.
"A citizen woman's marriage to a foreigner became vulnerable to interpretation as a brazenly un-American act," Bredbenner wrote in her book, "A Nationality of Her Own: Women, Citizenship and the Politics of Marriage."
At the time, magazines wrote about American women marrying European nobility in pursuit of titles. "For some Americans, a titled American was an affront to American ideals," Bredbenner wrote. But thousands who lost their citizenship were average women who lived in immigrant communities, she added in an interview.
...
After women pushed to win the right to vote — secured when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920 — Congress in 1922 acted to allow most, but not all, American-born women who married foreigners to be U.S. citizens. But those who married men ineligible for citizenship, such as Chinese immigrants, still forfeited their U.S. citizenship, until that restriction was later repealed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The President's Easter Message

In 2005, blogger Stephen Weissman objected to President Bush's discussion of the Resurrection in a weekly radio address:
Many - though by no means anywhere near a majority - who believe in these words will find it wonderful that the President has repeated them in the exercise of his public office. Mr. Bush and his political advisors know this, and clearly used the opportunity of his weekly radio address to further cement the bond between the President and those who want to turn America into "a Christian nation."
Nor does the president or his flock necessarly [sic] mean to hurt or exclude those of us who follow other paths - or no religious path at all. He is only bringing us the Word, and what could be a greater gift?
Well, thanks, but no thanks. The dangers are far too real. By so publicly rejecting the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state - and throwing off the good manners of millions of Americans who exercise their freedom of belief in private - Mr. Bush threatens to lead America down the road to open religious conflict. We've seen where that leads from South Asia to the Middle East, and in the bloody history of Europe's religious wars. Is that what we want for America? Is that what we want for the world?
Today President Obama offered his own Easter message:
And this Sunday, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I will join our fellow Christians around the world in celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, the salvation he offered the world, and the hope that comes with the Easter season.

These holy days have their roots in miracles that took place long ago. And yet, they still inspire us, guide us, and strengthen us today. They remind us of our responsibilities to God and, as God’s children, our responsibilities to one another.

For me, and for countless other Christians, Holy Week and Easter are times for reflection and renewal. We remember the grace of an awesome God, who loves us so deeply that He gave us his only Son, so that we might live through Him. We recall all that Jesus endured for us – the scorn of the crowds, the agony of the cross – all so that we might be forgiven our sins and granted everlasting life. And we recommit ourselves to following His example, to love and serve one another, particularly “the least of these” among us, just as He loves every one of us.
Note that the official White House transcript follows Christian practice in capitalizing several pronouns and possessive adjectives referring to Jesus.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lincoln on the Declaration and the Constitution

Here is a followup to a recent post on the connection between the Declaration and the Constitution.  In January, 1861, Abraham Lincoln wrote: 
All this is not the result of accident. It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of “Liberty to all” — the principle that clears the path for all — gives hope to all — and, by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all.
The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independenceof Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity. No oppressed, people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters.
The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple — not the apple for the picture.
So let us act, that neither picture, or apple shall ever be blurred, or bruised or broken.
That we may so act, we must study, and understand the points of danger.
Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, volume 4 (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 1953), 168-169.






News Polls in Decline



As we note in our textbook, this trend complicates life for pollsters.

TOP TALKER – “As polls vanish, so do clues about 2014,” by Steven Shepard, editor of POLITICO’s new Campaign Pro: “The last reliable nonpartisan poll on the [Arkansas Senate] race was conducted in October … Good polling is becoming increasingly scarce, walloped by shrinking newsroom budgets and the soaring costs of conducting surveys. … FiveThirtyEight … launched with a clarion call: ‘Somebody Poll a Senate Race.’ … Over a 15-year period, the completion rate for Pew’s pollsters … fell from 36 percent in 1997 to just 9 percent in 2012.
The main reason is the migration to cellphones. It’s more expensive and time-consuming to call cellphones because they cannot be dialed by a computer, per FCC regulations. … Cash-strapped news outlets are increasingly turning to less-expensive survey methods — like automated-phone and Internet polling … And campaigns and partisan groups are more than happy to fill the void and constant news cycle with numbers that are often more favorable toward their candidate.” Free to Pros http://goo.gl/uBu38Y

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New York Goes for National Popular Vote Compact

Emma Roller writes at National Journal:
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that adds New York to the roster of states in the National Popular Vote compact.
The law allows New York to award its 29 electoral votes "in any manner it deems appropriate," under Article II of the Constitution. Cuomo has pledged New York to give those votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. Currently, New York awards its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state's popular vote.
So far, nine other states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the National Popular Vote compact. Unfortunately for popular vote advocates, this sort of legislation does not actually take effect until enough states—representing a majority of the Electoral College's 538 votes—pass similar laws. Ironically, popular-vote advocates have to win over the Electoral College before they can dismantle it.
At Jurist, William G. Ross writes:
The constitutional foundation of NPVIC is Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that states shall appoint electors "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." Advocates of the compact point out that the plain language of this text appears to provide legislators with plenary authority over the method of selecting electors, an interpretation endorsed by the US Supreme Court more than a century ago in McPherson v. Blacker in 1892 and again in 1969, Williams v. Virginia Board of Elections. Like all provisions of the Constitution, however, this section must be read in context and in conjunction with other provisions of the Constitution.
The principal constitutional impediment to NPVIC probably is the so-called "Compact Clause" in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, which provides that "No State shall, without the Consent of Congress ... enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State." Although the US Supreme Court has concluded that the Compact Clause does not require Congress to consent to compacts that affect only the internal affairs of the compacting states, it has indicated in US Steel Corporation v. Multistate Tax Commission that the Compact Clause requires Congress to consent to an agreement that "would enhance the political power of the member States in a way that encroaches upon the supremacy of the United States," or "impairs the sovereign rights of non-member states."
...
Some opponents of NPVIC also have warned that the compact might violate sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by diluting the votes of racial minorities and impeding their exercise of the franchise. Since African-Americans and Latinos are concentrated in populous states that have large numbers of electoral votes, these opponents of the compact contend that the election of a president by virtual popular vote would diminish the electoral influence of these racial minorities.
Many supporters of the measure think that the electoral college has a Republican bias.  But the opposite may now be true.  Nate Silver wrote last year:
President Obama won the Electoral College fairly decisively last year despite a margin of just 3.8 percentage points in the national popular vote. In fact, Mr. Obama would probably have won the Electoral College even if the popular vote had slightly favored Mitt Romney. The “tipping-point state” in the election — the one that provided Mr. Obama with his decisive 270th electoral vote — was Colorado, which Mr. Obama won by 5.4 percentage points. If all states had shifted toward Mr. Romney by 5.3 percentage points, Mr. Obama would still have won Colorado and therefore the Electoral College — despite losing the national popular vote by 1.5 points.
 

The Declaration and the Constitution

[Author Timothy] Sandefur, principal attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, notes that since the 1864 admission of Nevada to statehood, every state’s admission has been conditioned on adoption of a constitution consistent with the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration . The Constitution is the nation’s fundamental law but is not the first law. The Declaration is, appearing on Page 1 of Volume 1 of the U.S. Statutes at Large, and the Congress has placed it at the head of the United States Code, under the caption, “The Organic Laws of the United States of America.” Hence the Declaration “sets the framework” for reading the Constitution not as “basically about” democratic government — majorities — granting rights but about natural rights defining the limits of even democratic government.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ben Carson and Alexis deTocqueville

In The Washington Times, Dr. Ben Carson writes:
Tocqueville was impressed by the fiery sermons that emphasized the word of God and not the social mores of the day. He concluded his American analysis by saying, “America is great, because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” America was different because we openly acknowledged the role of God in our lives.
As I have written on many, many, many occasions, Tocqueville wrote no such thing. It is a fake quotation.  For decades, writers have passed it along like a virus.