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Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Palin Speaks to the Safari Club

Our chapter on elections and campaigns details the many things that presidential candidates must do. Sarah Palin recently spoke at the Safari Club International dinner in Reno, Nevada. Why would a potential contender make such an appearance? The Reno Gazette-Journal reports:

Political science professor Fred Lokken of Truckee Meadows Community College said he considers Palin’s Safari Club appearance a “coup” for Reno and an “excellent” move for her.

“It’s always been a who’s who of some of the prominent conservative Republicans, so frankly for her either to get the invite or be able to wrangle the invite, it really helps her as she tries to position for 2012 and after,” he said. “This is one of the places to the seen.”

Palin’s visit will carry momentum beyond Reno since the Safari Club event draws visitors from afar, many of them wealthy.

“You come to one place, you talk for 50 minutes and hopefully create a buzz as they all go back to their respective states,” Lokken said. “They are probably all known, if not prominent, in their party circles back in those states.”

Palin’s appearance came as potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates stake out their ground.

“Being able to come to a group like this (gives) some street cred that might help her to sort of reestablish or bolster her efforts at building a campaign for 2012,” Lokken said. “It’s a guns rights place. They are huge in the Second Amendment. Her whole connection to Alaska probably makes her one of the most logical people they have had in years.”

“Charlton Heston made a lot of sense because he was a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association when he came here. They are always looking for people who have that really more pronounced connection, especially to gun rights.”

The organization is a good example of interest group advocacy, as its website explains:

Since 2000, SCI has spent $140 million on protecting the freedom to hunt through policy advocacy, litigation and education for federal and state legislators to ensure hunting is protected for future generations. The passion of SCI members is reflected in the doubling of expenditures in the last decade to accomplish these goals.

Through direct involvement and partnerships with like-minded organizations, SCI has become a political force in Washington, D.C. and other capitals around the world. Influence has been enhanced through strategic responses to issues to guarantee the hunter’s voice is heard, development of the largest hunter-drivien Political Action Committee that supports only pro-sportsman candidates and retains influential and effective lobbyists.

Our litigation staff, combined with the SCI Legal Task Force Committee, has engaged the anti sustainable-use community in federal and state courtrooms around the country. Development of a Hunting Legal Education course has further extended SCI’s reach to protect hunting opportunities in U.S. Courts.

Advocacy and education depend on effective, strategic and timely communication of issues to members and non-members. Our Safari Magazine and Safari Times newspaper publications have been recognized for their world class articles on hunting, firearms and identifying threats to our hunting heritage. The “In the Crosshairs” e-newsletter provides breaking news to more than 45,000 members on a weekly basis. SCI’s annual convention is widely viewed as the largest gathering of hunters and the hunting industry in the world attracting more than 22,000 attendees and dedicated SCI members.

The Hispanic Vote in Texas

Our chapters on parties and elections discuss the voting patterns of various demographic groups. New census numbers will be important for many states, including Texas. The Dallas Morning News reports:

Of those 4.5 million new Texans over the last 10 years — about 54 percent from in-state births, 22 percent from other states and 24 percent from foreign immigration — an estimated 85 percent are Hispanic.

That fact isn’t lost on Hispanic leaders, who see Texas gaining four seats in Congress and want their share, said Dr. Michael K. Moore, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington.

And that poses a particular challenge for the Republican Party, which dominates the Legislature and controls the redistricting process.

“It’s a challenge,” he said, “but it’s also an opportunity.

“Hispanic voters in general vote Democratic, but not as solidly as blacks, and that’s an important point. If you’re the head of one of the major parties right now and you’re working on a 10-, 15- or 20-year plan, a major question is, ‘What do we do about Hispanic voters?’ Because they’re divided depending on the issue.”

On economic and immigration issues, for example, Hispanics tend to support Democrats. But on social issues like abortion, the largely Catholic population sides with Republicans, Moore said.

“So these are important decisions, and Republicans need to find a way to draw four more districts they think they’ll win,” Moore said. “If they can figure a way to draw all four and include districts that will likely elect Hispanic Republicans, that’s even better.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011


In his State of the Union address, the president spoke in broad terms about reorganizing the government. At NPR, Alan Greenblatt reports that success might not be easy.

"It's not so much that getting the organization right doesn't help, but it's hugely costly," says John Donahue, a lecturer at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "It's more expensive than most people anticipate."

Obama got a good laugh when he pointed out the seeming absurdity of salmon having to deal with separate federal bureaucracies as they swim out to sea. "The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in salt water."

The reality is that it's not salmon being regulated, but the type of body of water they're swimming in.

"It's true that salmon may be treated by two or three different Cabinet departments," says Donald Kettl, dean of the public policy school at the University of Maryland, "but you don't want to have a Department of Salmon that deals with salmon wherever they live, and then a separate Department of Cod."

The bigger point is that Interior and Commerce have different priorities when it comes to salmon. One is trying to preserve the fish, while the other is trying to promote its sale. Putting salmon management under one roof won't change that dynamic.

Filibuster and Deliberation

Journalist Dick Polman regrets the failure of filibuster reform in the Senate:

This winter, a number of ideas were being kicked around to curb the filibuster (the word is derived from vrijbuiter, which old Dutch for “looter”), to at least make the tactic more difficult to sustain. Reform was long overdue. Until the 1960s, the Senate averaged one filibuster a year; during the ‘60s, it averaged 4.6 a year; during the ‘70s, it averaged 11.2 a year. Rampant exploitation of the rule became de rigueur during the ‘90s, when ideological fervor truly took hold.

That decade saw an average of 36 filibusters a year – although, in retrospect, that stat is a pittance. Since 2007 the minority Republicans have used the tactic on an unprecedented scale - 70 per year - to grind the process to a halt; last December, the Senate last month couldn't even pass the annual budget.

If the famed French social critic Alexis de Tocqueville was alive today, he would knowingly nod. Back in 1832, while observing the Senate in action, he praised the quality of its members, but warned in his writings that “a minority of the nation dominating the Senate could completely paralyze the will of the majority…and that is contrary to the spirit of constitutional government.”

The handful of senators who were pushing filibuster reform would surely agree with that. They had suggested a number of ideas – lowering the number of senators required to break a filibuster, bringing it steadily down from the current 60 during the first eight days of paralysis; requiring the obstructionists to actually stand there on camera and actually conduct the filibuster, rather than paralyzing the chamber by merely threatening to filibuster; requiring that a fixed number of filibustering senators hold the floor on day one, and hike the required number for days two, three, and beyond; requiring that the tactic be used only when a bill is up for final passage, as opposed to its use on any or all amendments.

None of those reforms will happen, not just because the Republicans predictably said no, but because a sizable share of Democrats also prefer the status quo. After all, they could be in the minority some day (perhaps as soon as 2013), and they might want to avail themselves of the same paralysis tactic – partisan payback, giving the GOP a taste of its own bitter medicine. What a far cry from the Senate of 1832, when de Tocqueville was lauding the members for their “lofty thoughts” and “generous instincts.” (The senators of 1832 had yet to employ the filibuster.)

The Deseret News has a different reaction:

The filibuster, that tool of gridlock, has survived yet another attempt at its demise. Last week the Senate rejected three separate attempts to weaken this legislative tactic, which allows a minority to stall legislation unless 60 Senators vote to end it.

Thank goodness they were smart enough to do so.

We wonder how many Americans would be surprised to learn that the Founding Fathers were fans of so-called gridlock. They set up a system of government, with two legislative bodies and three branches that could check each other, specifically to make it difficult to get things done. The idea was to create a system in which laws are produced through a deliberative process, not rammed through by a party with an agenda. The past two years, during which Democrats held a sizeable majority in the Senate, offer a prime example of the value of the filibuster.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Dial Group on the State of the Union Address

In our chapter on public opinion, we discuss "dial groups," which register their reaction to video presentations by twisting a dial. The conservative group Resurgent Republic conducted a dial test on January 25, 2011 in Columbus, OH. Participating were 30 voters - 9 Democrats (Blue Line), 13 Independents (Yellow Line), and 8 Republicans (Red Line). The Independents were identified as undecided on whether they would re-elect President Obama. The higher the lines go, the more the respondents agree.


In our chapter on bureaucracy and the administrative state, we discuss the organizational problems that led to the Challenger disaster. It happened 25 years ago today. Here is President Reagan's national address:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Views of Federalism

The Progressive States Network argues that a very activist federal government is consistent with the Constitution. The American Constitution Society specifically defends the health care law against the argument that it unconstitutionally extends the federal government's power:
Highly politicized efforts to repeal the landmark health care law have led a group of more than 100 leading legal scholars from across the country to join together in a statement reaffirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and calling attention to the dangers of "throwing out nearly two centuries of settled law."

"I've never seen such an outpouring of support among law professors before," UCLA School of Law professor Adam Winkler said during a press call today hosted by the American Constitution Society and the Center for American Progress. "Legal experts nationwide are worried about the bald-faced judicial activism of the lower court in Virginia."


Read the letter signed by over 100 law professors here, and listen to this morning's press call here.

Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz and Mario Loyola of the Texas Public Policy Foundation write:
The Tenth Amendment is more than a legal construct. It is an expression of the American tradition of self-governance. The propensity to self-organize spontaneously at the local level to solve problems that had been observed by Alexis de Toqueville—and felt so painfully by the British Army—was essential to American democracy. The Constitution had been designed to protect it, not supplant it. And while a respect and deference to state authority both predated and was implied in the Constitution itself, in the end the Tenth Amendment was deemed necessary to ensure that self-governance would never give way to tyranny.

In this sense, the Tenth Amendment, coming at the end of the Bill of Rights, was something of a summation of the Framers’ whole notion of American democracy—and a salutary warning that those powers granted to the federal government needed to be kept strictly limited within the Constitution’s constraints, or else the States and individuals who formed the Union, and the Union itself, would be imperiled. That is why the Tenth Amendment matters.

Grading the State of the Union

Australian radio interviewed American political scientist Peverill Squire of the University of Missouri about the president's State of the Union address:

PEVERILL SQUIRE: I think he earned a good solid B. I don't think it was an exceptional speech.

JANE COWAN: Peverill Squire is a professor of political science at the University of Missouri.

PEVERILL SQUIRE: Well I think he managed to avoid going into great detail which tends to lose his audience and I think he spoke in some fairly broad terms about the challenges we face and I think it was in that sense a fairly honest speech.

JANE COWAN: Did the president go into enough detail though to be credible on cutting the deficit? He didn't say exactly how that would be done.

PEVERILL SQUIRE: I don't think any American politician right now has much credibility on the details of cutting the budget deficit.

I think both parties are talking in very general terms because they want to avoid the unpleasantness that comes with making specific cuts.

So I think he probably did about as well as he could. You know talking about a freeze on a small portion of the budget is probably sufficiently painful that it begins to get people's attention.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The Washington Post reports:

Talking about an urgent need to reorganize the federal government, Obama noted that "The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

The joke earned one of the biggest laughs of the night and has since dominated TV news recaps of the speech. It also appears to be the most well-remembered moment of the night among Americans who watched, at least according to the NPR word cloud above.

So who came up with the joke? We're told it was newly minted White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley, who, as a former commerce secretary, "knows a thing or two about this," according to a senior administration aide.

Administration officials reminded reporters Wednesday that the Commerce Department is responsible for salmon fisheries while the Interior Department operates salmon hatcheries in fresh water and deals with salmon habitats along freshwater streams. Both are now working more closely to coordinate their efforts, the officials said.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Federal Pay

Earlier posts (here and here dealt with federal salaries. At Government Executive, Andrew G. Biggs and Jason Richwine write:

Is the overpaid federal worker really just a myth? Not according to academic research. Economists have studied federal pay since the 1970s, and their methods and conclusions differ markedly from those of the government. Economists use statistical techniques that account for differences in workers' age, education, experience, gender, race, marital status and other characteristics.

Why is this research so inconsistent with claims that federal workers are underpaid? Because economists compare similar workers, while OPM looks at similar jobs.

Those studies generally have found a federal pay premium in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent, according to the 1999 Handbook of Labor Economics. A private sector worker earning $50,000 per year, for example, might receive $55,000 to $60,000 per year as a federal employee. The largest premiums are for lower-skilled employees, with smaller benefits as education increases. Interestingly, foreign studies also have found pay premiums for their government employees, suggesting government's weaker budget constraints allow public sector pay to rise above market levels.

Using the Census Bureau's 2009 Current Population Survey, the authors calculated an average federal pay premium of 12 percent over comparable private workers. Other studies tackle the issue from different angles, such as following the same workers over several years. Economists have demonstrated that private workers who switch to federal employment enjoy a substantial boost in wages.

Virtue and Public Life

Peter Wehner writes of a recently-republished address by Irving Kristol:

His essay goes on to reflect on the ideas of “republican virtues,” which asks of people a certain public-spiritedness, which is a form of self-control, which is itself an exercise in self-government. Kristol goes on to write about the main point that emerged from the American democratic experience. “People do not have respect for institutions which, instead of making demands upon them, are completely subservient to their whims,” Kristol wrote. “In short, a people will not respect a polity that has so low an opinion of them that it thinks it absurd to insist that people become better than they are. Not simply more democratic; not simply more free; not simply more affluent; but, in some clear sense, better.”

This conception of republican virtue has been largely lost in modern times. And while a peaceful populist uprising can be a very good thing from time to time, there is something deeply wise and true in Kristol’s warning. There is a “democratic dogma” that insists our institutions should in every instance conform themselves to the whims and will of the people — a belief the Founders themselves rejected in both their writings and in their form for government (they were horrified by the notion of a “direct democracy” rather than a representative one, believing government should mediate, not mirror, popular views).

Browner Leaves

Our chapter on bureaucracy and the administrative state includes a photo essay (p. 473) on Carol Browner, the president's assistant for energy and climate change. Her long career -- in business, government, and the nonprofit sector; on the state and federal levels; and in the legislative and executive branches -- illustrates multiple parts of the environmental issue network. The New York Times reports:

Carol M. Browner, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change policy, will leave the administration shortly, officials confirmed Monday night. Her departure signals at least a temporary slowing of the ambitious environmental goals of President Obama’s first two years in the face of new Republican strength in Congress.

Ms. Browner, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was charged with directing the administration’s effort to enact comprehensive legislation to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases and moving the country away from a dependence on dirty-burning fossil fuels. That effort foundered in Congress last year, and Mr. Obama has acknowledged that no major climate change legislation is likely to pass in the next two years.

No decision has been made on whether she would be replaced or if the position would simply disappear, a White House official said.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Billy Graham on Politics

Tocqueville wrote (Lawrence/Mayer version, p. 297):
When a religion seeks to found its sway only on the longing for immortality equally tormenting every human heart, it can aspire to universality; though when it comes to uniting itself with a government, it must adopt maxims which apply only to certain nations. Therefore, by allying itself with any political power, religion increases its strength over some but forfeits the hope of reigning over all.
Billy Graham, the most famous living evangelist, reflects in Christianity Today:
I also would have steered clear of politics. I'm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn't do that now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


In our chapter on Congress (p. 410), we discuss earmarks, legislative directives setting aside funds for a specific purpose in a district or state. They have become controversial in recent years. The House has put a moratorium on them, while the Senate has not. The Naples [Florida] Daily News reports:

Earmarks are expenditures aimed at projects that are local in nature, and are usually specific to a Congressional district, said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The debate about whether earmarks should be allowed is a constant one, but MacManus said the decision to ban earmarks – even if only for a short time – has the most significant effect on local governments.

“Local governments are most stressed,” she said. “Local governments have been dependent on the money flowing down, and (the freeze) has a chain effect and the chain stops at the local level.”

Collier County is asking for federal dollars in fiscal 2012 for nine projects, seven of which are continuing initiatives. The county has said the Everglades Boulevard interchange, which comes with a $4 million request for federal funding, is the most important project in the coming fiscal year.

The project had $1 million earmarked in a fiscal 2011 Senate transportation bill, but Wight in a Jan. 11 memo said the earmark was in jeopardy after Congress failed to pass an appropriations bill.

“I think you probably read, and are probably well aware, of the earmark situation,” [county official Debbie] Wight said. “Our lobbyist has continued to emphasize that even though that is the current political climate … there’s a variety of other avenues to pursue funding for our projects.”

But Seana Segrue, a professor of political science at Ave Maria University, said there are only a limited number of areas in which the federal government has committed to offering grants.

“The freeze on earmarks is something that is a reflection of concerns of the debt and the desire to keep government spending under control,” she said. “Earmarks are discretionary, and it’s one of the areas you can have some cuts in tough times.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Good Research Advice

Wikipedia, which just celebrated its tenth birthday, has become a popular source for student research. Central Michigan Life reports:

Even people who use reference books should make sure the author is citing prominent thinkers in the field, said Chris Owens, assistant professor of political science, and using Wikipedia today is like using an encyclopedia was when he was in college.

“If you write a paper and it only has Wikipedia cites you’re going to get a bad grade,” he said. “There are plenty of electronic books and journals you can use.”

Owens said the source is useful for finding background on a topic but should be avoided for anything deeper. Novi sophomore Joe Betro uses Wikipedia for just that.

“I do (use it) in my reports, not to quote Wikipedia, but to find other reliable sources,” Betro said. “Most of my professors actually tell me to use it … as a jumping off point.”


It is up to each professor whether they allow Wikipedia as a source, Peters said. Owens and [historian Randy] Doyle do not allow their students to use the site as a source.

See here for more on the use of Wikipedia as a starting point instead of a citable source.

See here for broader advice on research.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Union Membership

In 2010, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union--was 11.9 percent, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers be- longing to unions declined by 612,000 to 14.7 million. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 per- cent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
In 2010, 7.6 million public sector employees belonged to a union, compared with 7.1 million union workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public sector workers (36.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers (6.9 percent). Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 42.3 percent. This group includes workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and fire fighters.

Online Education and Federalism

Although the federal government plays an key part in higher education, states still play the lead role in running and regulating colleges and universities. Inside Higher Education notes the consequences for online schooling:

Online colleges looking to expand their national footprints might have to gird themselves for a regulatory beating from the Sun Belt. And they might get chilly receptions in certain parts of the Upper Midwest, too.

Those regions are home to a number of the least hospitable regulatory environments for online interlopers looking to enroll students from states where they do not have a physical presence, according to a new report from the consulting firm Eduventures. The report, scheduled to be released today, examined the regulatory standards and practices in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia.

It found that Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are among the least permissive states as far as requiring online institutions to acquire unique licenses to “operate” inside their borders.

Online education seems to be winning the battle against the initial skepticism about its legitimacy. Online enrollments have grown at nine times the rate of classroom-based education since 2002, according to the Sloan Consortium (with major buy-in in the public sector). But deep-seated opinions — bolstered by the occasional unmasking of a fly-by-night diploma mill — are not the only obstacles left over from many centuries of campus-bound higher education. As higher education has evolved, state-by-state regulatory standards have remained “inconsistent, complex, and behind [the] online boom,” says the Eduventures report.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Military Metaphors and Politics

In the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, former senator Gary Hart wrote:
Gradually, over time, political rhetoric used by politicians and the media has become more inflamatory [sic]. The degree to which violent words and phrases are considered commonplace is striking. Candidates are "targeted". An opponent is "in the crosshairs". Liberals have to be "eliminated". Opponents are "enemies". This kind of language eminates [sic] largely from those who claim to defend American democracy against those who would destroy it, who are evil, and who want to "take away our freedoms".
Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid such language. The 1972 presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern (D-SD) rested on opposition to the Vietnam War and the Cold War. Yet in his memoir of the election race, McGovern's campaign manager used military language. Dedicated to "the McGovern army," the book said:
The nomination campaign for us was guerrilla warfare -- scattered, ragtag troops, minutemen, roving bands of citizens volunteers, the people of Russia plaguing and harassing Napoleon's elite corps. The general election campaign was heavy artillery, panzer divisions, massive clanking movements of cumbersome weapons, mechanized unwieldy warfare.
The book was Right from the Start (pp. 60-61). The author was Gary Hart.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The Philadelphia Daily News provides some background on the House vote to repeal the health care law.

Q. Why are the Republicans doing this?

A. GOP lawmakers believe that voters who saw the Obama-backed health-care reforms as a Big Government overreach were a major reason for the party's landslide victory in November's midterm election. Voting for repeal is a step toward fulfilling their campaign promise.

Q. So, will they get it done?

A. Put it this way: The 76ers have a much better chance of winning an NBA title this season. The GOP lacks a majority to pass major legislation in the Senate, let alone to reach the 60 votes to prevent a Democratic filibuster. If by some miracle the repeal did get out of Congress, it would be vetoed by Obama, and there would not be enough Republican votes to override the veto.

Q. So why bother?

A. This week's House vote is, in essence, a glorified conservative kickoff ad for the 2012 elections.

"They're saying, 'If you really want us to go full- steam ahead, we have to have the Senate and the presidency as well,' " said Robin Kolodny, a Temple University associate professor of political science who specializes in Congress.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The 2012 Campaign is Starting Later than 2008

As of now, only one significant would-be presidential candidate has formed an exploratory committee: pizza magnate Herman Cain, a long shot for the GOP nomination. By this point in the 2008 campaign, by contrast, most of the serious or semi-serious candidates had already started their exploratory committees. Here are the candidates and the dates on which they filed their first statements of organization with the Federal Election Commission:

Race Relations, Then and Now

Though race relations are far from a settled issue, conditions are much better than they were half a century ago. WBNG reports:

"We forget how bad, how ingrained in society discrimination was, even in the most progressive parts of the United States," said John McNulty, assistant professor of political science at Binghamton University.

McNulty says these days, it's hard for kids to even think of a time of segregation.

Especially when they were "educated in the institutions that were reformed by it," McNulty said.

For the rest of the country, he says it has been a seemingly effortless transition of power.

"We now have a black president," McNulty said. "To generations that came of age before the civil rights movement, it seemed virtually impossible that such a thing might ever come to pass."

Dr. King taught a generation of Americans to speak out peaceably against perceived injustices and government policies they disliked. Dr. McNulty says we're still using the same methods today.

"He introduced the principle of nonviolent resistance," McNulty said.

In contemporary culture, that's the same principle the Tea Party is using to gain attention for its political grievances.

These are the same methods MLK used to expose different, gross injustices in the South.

"King's achievement was to basically bring African-Americans to a point where they had equality under the law and equality in fact under the law," McNulty said.

So, we can talk about race today. But the fact is, there are still inequalities in education and economics down racial lines.

"It's still a loaded subject. And it's going to be," McNulty said.

But we've come a long way since.

Sign at a Greyhound station, Rome, Georgia, 1943:

As President Obama put it in his inaugural address:

This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall; and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

Monday, January 17, 2011

King on Natural Law

As we explain in the textbook (p. 216), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that right and wrong were not matters of mere custom. He spelled out his view in his 1963 letter from Birmingham Jail:

How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Founders' Constitution

At the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Eugene W. Hickok and Gary L. McDowell write:

[T]he essence of the Founders' Constitution — indeed, the essence of the very idea of American constitutionalism — is that government may not do whatever it pleases and that the limits on the government's powers must be respected. At the same time it must also be appreciated that within those sometimes strict limits the government is expected to be allowed to carry out its true constitutional responsibilities with that "energy" that lies at the heart of any real government. It must be allowed to fulfill the original constitutional intentions of the people.

* * * * *

That greatest of Richmonders, Chief Justice John Marshall, understood this as well — if not better — than anyone.

At the heart of the idea that the essence of the Constitution is the creation of a limited but energetic government is the belief that the very idea of a written constitution of enumerated powers is nothing less than what Marshall called "the greatest improvement on political institutions." The reason, as the great chief justice said, is that the Constitution is the creature of the people's will and "lives only by their will."

If the new Republican majority aspires to be a party of true constitutionalists, it could do no better than to take its bearings from the Founders.

For their Constitution, as James Madison put it, was intended to provide a "republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government," and it is precisely the return to a proper understanding of the Founders' Constitution as the source of a limited but energetic republican government that can best accomplish the original objects of our justly celebrated founding.

Views on Birthright Citizenship

In the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) argues for ending birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens:

As originally written, the citizenship clause in the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to guarantee citizenship to all freed slaves. However, a gross misinterpretation of the amendment has created an attractive incentive for illegal immigration.

When observing the debate surrounding the ratification of the amendment, it is clear that the authors intended only to grant citizenship to persons born here who were "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. In fact, one of the authors, Senator Jacob Howard, stated that the Fourteenth Amendment would: "not include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors, or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons."

The authors also understood the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" to have the same meaning as the phrase "and not subject to any foreign Power," included in the Civil Rights Act of 1866. It would be difficult to argue that illegal immigrants and temporary visitors are not subject to a foreign power or that they do not owe allegiance to anybody but the United States.

We must also end birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants because it costs American taxpayers billions annually. At present, our national debt is rapidly approaching a record $14 trillion. At the same time, one study found that illegal immigration costs taxpayers up to $113 billion each year and automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants is contributing to this astronomical cost.

In the same paper California Assemblyman Mike Eng (D) argues against the measure, citing the experience of the Chinese in America:

The xenophobic Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the only law in U.S. history that explicitly prohibited entry into America on the basis of race and nationality, prevented them from stepping foot into the country. The Act was part of a widespread campaign to drive out predominantly low-wage Chinese immigrant workers, who were accused of driving down wages for "real Americans" and for failing to assimilate.
Consequently, Chinese immigrants ostensibly became the first undocumented immigrant population in the United States. After the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, there was just one method by which most could gain entry to the U.S.: by becoming "paper sons" - erasing their real names, family ties and ancestral connections, and adopting false identities claiming to be the overseas offspring of Chinese who were already in the United States.
The current birthright citizenship debate resurrects the malicious spirit of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It is unfortunate that in today's ugly debate around immigration, an immigrant child is not seen as a symbol of hope, but as an "anchor baby," demonized as a way for parents to gain legal status in the United States. The legal reality is that these parents still face deportation, even if they have U.S.-born citizen children. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has deported more than 100,000 parents of children who are U.S. citizens.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


The Arizona Republic reports on the funeral of Judge John Roll, a victim of the Tucson shooting:

"He's a hometown boy that made good," said Michael Massee, 48, city attorney in Benson who clerked for Roll from 1994 to '96. He said Roll, who was 63, liked to hire veterans, was proud when his son joined the Navy, and asked his staff to work as hard as he did. "He was a patriot," Massee said.

Meanwhile, President Obama eulogized diplomat Richard Holbrooke:

As we look to the next generation, it is fitting, as David mentioned, that this memorial take place at the Kennedy Center, named for the President who called Richard’s generation to serve. It’s also fitting that this memorial takes place at a time when our nation has recently received a tragic reminder that we must never take our public servants for granted and must always honor their work.

America is not defined by ethnicity. It’s not defined by geography. We are a nation born of an idea, a commitment to human freedom.

And over the last five decades, there have been countless times when people made the mistake of counting on America’s decline or disengagement. Time and again, those voices have been proven wrong, but only because of the service and sacrifice of exceptional men and women, those who answered the call of history and made America’s cause their own.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Campaign Ads in 2010

Our chapter on elections and campaigns (p. 349) notes that campaign ads have both good and bad effects for deliberation and citizenship. In The Forum, Erika Franklin Fowler and Travis N. Ridout sum up a study of 2010 ads:
Although there is still much to be learned about the effects of advertising on citizen attitudes, perceptions, and behavior—and more to be learned from this cycle’s ad war in particular—previous research does give us a good sense of what some of those effects might be. One nontrivial benefit of record spending and record airings this cycle is that many voters, whether they liked it or not, were undoubtedly exposed to more campaign information than in previous election cycles and therefore were more likely to make informed choices at the ballot box (Coleman and Manna 2000, Franz, et al. 2007).

The unprecedented negativity in 2010 may also have some good consequences. For instance, Geer (2006) shows that negative ads are actually more likely to talk about policy issues, and thus negative ads may be informative ads. Negative ads may also raise the stakes, motivating people to get out and vote (Freedman and Goldstein 1999). But negative advertising is a perennial favorite topic of news media (Fowler and Ridout 2009), and with record levels of negativity this cycle, the amplification of negativity through media was also likely at record levels.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The President and the Bible

In his remarks in Tucson, President Obama quoted Psalm 46:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

The president was using the New International Version, the favorite of evangelicals. Of the various translations of the passage, the NIV most clearly conveyed the president's message.

Similarly, he used the NIV for Job 30:26: "When I looked for light, then came darkness."

The president has quoted the NIV on other occasions as well.

Violence and Freedom

In our chapter on political culture, we discuss the relationship between crime and American individualism (p. 136). David Paul Kuhn writes at RealClearPolitics:

Harvard's David Hemenway and UCLA doctorial student Erin Richardson studied 23 wealthy nations. The United States had one-third the total population but accounted for eight in 10 firearm deaths.


There is an unspoken willingness to tolerate our share of murders. American hyper-capitalism makes a similar tradeoff. We subscribe to social Darwinism to a degree unseen in Western Europe. It's one reason our economy is the fittest. But it also explains why the wealthiest nation in the world has a weaker social safety net than other developed countries. The conservative equation of freedom: lower taxes and fewer regulations on guns, equals more freedom. Liberals adhere to their own zealous formulation of American freedom. The left has won more civil rights for the mentally ill, but those rights will sometimes risk the public's welfare. It's this most-American value that Jonathan Franzen explores, within the ordinariness of middle class daily life, in his recent novel "Freedom."

The National Rifle Association has long understood that guns are best defended as tools of that value. It ran a multi-million dollar ad campaign to defeat Al Gore in the 2000 election. NRA billboards read: "Vote Freedom!"

As Franzen wrote in his novel, "The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage." The Arizona tragedy is not an inevitable consequence of freedom. But the nation has accepted its American berserks as one of the prices of that freedom.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Douglass and the Constitution

There has been much discussion of the Constitution in recent months. The House floor reading of the document has drawn attention to its relationship to slavery. Peter C. Myers provides some historical context. He writes that escaped slave Frederick Douglass was critical of the Constitution in his youth, but then had a change of heart (a point that our textbook mentions on pp. 62-63).

Douglass publicly announced his change of opinion in the spring of 1851, but his most powerful statement of his revised view appears, fittingly enough, in his speech at an Independence Day celebration in 1852. In that speech, often considered the greatest of all abolitionist speeches, he excoriated America’s injustices no less vigorously than he ever had, but he took great care to distinguish America’s practice from its first principles and the actions of its subsequent generations from those of its Founders.

“The signers of the Declaration of Independence,” Douglass told his audience that day, “were brave men. They were great men too…. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes.” In his discerning view, however, the main source of their greatness—the virtue that enabled them to be more than revolutionaries, the Founders of a great republic—inhered not in their bravery but in their dedication to the “eternal principles,” the “saving principles,” set forth in the unique revolutionary document they dared to sign. “Your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately…and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you…. Mark them!”[15]

In truth, Douglass had long admired the Declaration and the Revolution; but now, having broken with the Garrisonian variant of abolitionism, he had come to admire the whole of the Founding, because he had come to judge the Constitution to be faithful to the saving principles of the Declaration. The charge of a pro-slavery Constitution was “a slander upon [the] memory” of the Framers, he contended; “interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document.” Consider “the constitution according to its plain reading,” Douglass continued, “and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hero Intern

Daniel Hernandez, of the University of Arizona, is an intern for Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). On the day of the shooting, his quick thinking proved crucial. NPR quotes his account:

I came in at about 9:15 and I was assigned to help staff this event as an intern. I helped set up. At about 10 a.m. the event started. A few minutes later we heard gunshots. I then ran toward the congresswoman and those who I assumed would likely be injured.

The first thing I started to do was to try and check for pulses as well as to see who was still breathing. I got to do that for two or three people before I actually realized that the congresswoman had been one of the people who had been hit. When I realized that congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been hit, she became my top priority because she had not only been hit with a bullet but she had also been hit in the head.

I didn't notice any other injuries but I did notice that the position in which she was in was one where there was some danger of possible asphyxiation from the blood loss. So the first thing I did was to pick her up and prop her up against my chest to make sure that she could breathe properly. Once I was sure that she was able to breathe properly and wouldn't asphyxiate, the next thing I did was to apply pressure to her wound to make sure that we could stem the blood loss.

He did, and she survived.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Early Voting

Early voting has been on the rise. The Fairfax Times reports on efforts in Virginia to make early voting easier:

A substantial number of Virginia voters also cast ballots early in 2008 despite having to provide an excuse, said Michael McDonald, an associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University.

In Virginia, there have been past attempts to loosen up the early voting laws. But those efforts have generally failed, McDonald said.

Republican lawmakers in Virginia tend to think anything that grants easier access to the ballot will help Democrats, who tend to attract support from minorities, the poor and young people -- groups who are less likely to vote, McDonald said.

But he said easing early voting restrictions actually could help Republicans. Those who typically vote for Republican candidates tend to vote in every election. Early voters also tend to be regular voters, and early voting has not really attracted new voters, he said.

Easing limitations for mail-in absentee ballots also is not likely to increase turnout. People who regularly vote are likely to take advantage of voting by mail and could increase the cost to run an election, Michaelson and McDonald both said.

Election officers would need to hire people to count and examine the mailed ballots plus staff polling locations on Election Day, they said.

Other concerns cited by some lawmakers include worries about vote fraud and the loss of ballot secrecy, McDonald said.

Some states, such as Oregon, have eliminated polling sites and use only mail-in ballots, which has increased turnout for those states and actually decreased costs, he said.

"What are you willing to live with? Weigh these low instances [of fraud] versus making it more convenient for people to vote," McDonald said.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

State Proposals on Birthright Citizenship

Julia Preston reports in The New York Times:
Conservative lawmakers from five state legislatures launched a joint campaign on Wednesday to try to cancel automatic United States citizenship for the American-born children of illegal immigrants.

At a news conference here, Republican legislators unveiled two model measures they said would be introduced in at least 14 states. One was a bill clarifying the terms of citizenship in those states to exclude babies born here of illegal immigrant parents. The second was a compact between states to adopt common positions on the issue.

The lawmakers acknowledged that the state bills were not likely to have a practical impact anytime soon, since they would be quickly challenged as unconstitutional. But the legislators — from Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina — said they chose the inaugural day of a new, Republican-controlled House of Representatives to open the first round of litigation they hope will lead to the Supreme Court and also spur action by lawmakers in Washington.

Marc Lacey writes, also in The New York Times:

Most scholars of the Constitution consider the states’ effort to restrict birth certificates patently unconstitutional. “This is political theater, not a serious effort to create a legal test,” said Gabriel J. Chin, a law professor at the University of Arizona whose grandfather immigrated to the United States from China at a time when ethnic Chinese were excluded from the country. “It strikes me as unwise, un-American and unconstitutional.”

The 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, was a repudiation of the Supreme Court’s 1857 ruling, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, that people of African descent could never be American citizens. The amendment said citizenship applied to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

In 1898, the Supreme Court, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, interpreted the citizenship provision as applying to a child born in the United States to a Chinese immigrant couple.

Still, some conservatives contend that the issue is unsettled. Kris Kobach, the incoming secretary of state in Kansas and a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who has helped draft many of the tough immigration regulations across the country, argued that the approach the states were planning would hold up to scrutiny.

There was a disruption:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

America Is Great Because...

On his January 4 program, Glenn Beck asserted: "America is great because America is good. DeTocqueville said this."

No, he didn't.

As we explain in the textbook (pp. 139-140), no such phrase appears in any of Tocqueville's writings. The line apparently started with an honest misattribution in a 1941 book. Speakers and writers embellished the spurious passage, and it has been spreading like a virus for decades. It was a particular favorite of President Clinton (see, for instance, his speeches of March 4, 1994; October 7, 1999; and January 7, 2001, among others).

For more background, see an article in The Weekly Standard.

An Argument Against the Repeal Amendment

Earlier posts have mentioned the proposed "repeal amendment," which would enable states to repeal laws that Congress has passed. In The National Law Journal, John R. Vile of Middle Tennessee State University argues against it, saying that it would divorce power from responsibility.

Students of James Madison's Federalist No. 10 might further note that such state delegates represent much smaller districts, where he thought factions, or interest groups, are much more likely to prevail. Moreover, a mechanism for a state veto of congressional legislation might further nationalize American politics by increasing the likelihood that state elections would revolve around national issues.

In striking down the legislative veto in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha (1983), the U.S. Supreme Court noted how carefully the framers had crafted the legislative process. The current process wisely suspends the application of a law for 10 days as a president decides whether to sign, veto or allow a bill to go into effect without such a veto. By contrast, Barnett's proposal could leave adopted legislation in a precarious limbo, during which time the president and executive agencies remained uncertain as to whether to begin enforcing a law. Moreover, as the proposed amendment is currently written, laws adopted 50 years ago might be as vulnerable as those that were passed yesterday. Appropriations for national defense would be as vulnerable as others. At a time when legislation can run to hundreds of pages, state legislators are even less likely to have read legislation than the members of Congress who enacted it.

The size of the U.S. deficit suggests that legislators already find it more advantageous to mandate benefits and lower taxes than to cut programs and raise taxes. Article I, Section 8 vests Congress with certain powers and responsibilities. What if state vetoes made it impossible for Congress to carry out such powers or fulfill such duties? What would happen if state legislators began vetoing tax bills without vetoing corresponding appropriations? Who should voters hold responsible?

The Supreme Court ruled in Clinton v. City of New York (1998) that American presidents cannot exercise line-item vetoes. By contrast, the reference to "any provision of law or regulation" of the Repeal Amendment suggests that two-thirds of the state legislatures could exercise such a power. Would it be prudent to elevate a state veto above that now exercised by the president, who is elected on a nationwide basis?

State Budgets and Unions

At The Atlantic, Megan McArdle provides context for the states' fiscal plight:

Three years after the stock market cratered in 1929, American schools suffered their own crash. School districts had managed to ride out the early years of the Great Depression; in fact, because many districts depended on property taxes, which didn’t crash as fast as income taxes, more than a few managed to increase spending.

But in the 1932–33 school year, many districts ran out of funds. With more than one in five workers unemployed, many households didn’t have the money to pay property taxes, so all of a sudden, the school boards didn’t have enough money to pay their bills. Some 2,200 schools in 11 states closed entirely—in Alabama, schools in 50 out of 67 counties shut down. Many more districts cut services or sharply reduced their hours; thousands of districts in the Midwest and South shrank the school year to fewer than 120 days.

When we talk about government response to economic crisis, we tend to focus on the federal government; for one thing, it’s big, and it’s right there in Washington, where it’s easy to keep track of. But economic contraction is often felt most keenly by state and local governments, which deliver highly visible services like schools and police and fire departments.

Unlike the federal government, almost all states have to enact budgets that are nominally balanced. A recession may be the worst time to raise taxes, but it is also the worst time to cut services. Unfortunately, states have to do one or the other. And sometimes, as in those Depression-era school districts, they’re forced to do both.

The New York Times reports:

State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets. On Wednesday, for example, New York’s new Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, is expected to call for a one-year salary freeze for state workers, a move that would save $200 million to $400 million and challenge labor’s traditional clout in Albany.

But in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.

For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.

Some new governors, most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reading the Constitution

At The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne writes:

Republican House leaders are going in for a lot of symbolism and why not? Symbols matter in politics.

Thus the new majority will open the next Congress with a full reading of the Constitution and establish a rule requiring that every new bill contain a statement citing the constitutional authority behind it.

My first response was to scoff at this obvious sop to the Tea Party movement. One can imagine that the rule's primary practical result will be the creation of a small House bureaucracy responsible for churning out constitutional justifications for whatever gets introduced.

But on reflection, I offer the Republicans two cheers for their fealty to their professed ideals. We badly need a full-scale debate over what the Constitution is, means and allows - and how Americans have argued about these questions since the beginning of the republic. This provision should be the springboard for a discussion all of us should join ... So let's celebrate. It can only be good for democratic deliberation if holding the majority requires House Republicans to show their policy and philosophical cards. They'll legislate. You'll decide.

Blogger Ann Althouse notes that some have called the reading a "gimmick," citing the movie Gypsy in which fellow strippers tell the young Gypsy Rose Lee that she needs one.

I wouldn't use the word "gimmick" for what the GOP has proposed. But, like stripping, it is theatrical. It's a performance. A performance of belief. I think of the point in the church service when everyone reads the Apostles' Creed out loud. Obviously, many people say it who don't believe it, and you could keep silent and still believe it. But don't mock the ritual unless you're good at predicting the reaction and how you'll respond to that and you have some good reason for wanting the exchange.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Unions, Pensions, and Politics

Our chapter on interest groups notes the changing character of organized labor. Union members are now more likely to be white collar than blue collar, public sector than private sector. The New York Times reports:

Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets, and revealed that some public pension funds dangle perilously close to bankruptcy. In California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey, states where public unions wield much power and the culture historically tends to be pro-labor, even longtime liberal political leaders have demanded concessions — wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules.

It is an angry conversation. Union chiefs, who sometimes persuaded members to take pension sweeteners in lieu of raises, are loath to surrender ground. Taxpayers are split between those who want cuts and those who hope that rising tax receipts might bring easier choices.

And a growing cadre of political leaders and municipal finance experts argue that much of the edifice of municipal and state finance is jury-rigged and, without new revenue, perhaps unsustainable. Too many political leaders, they argue, acted too irresponsibly, failing to either raise taxes or cut spending.

Robert Holland and Don Soifer write in The Oklahoman:

Currently in the United States, state and local government employees’ pension and retiree health-benefit plans are under water to the tune of some $3.6 trillion, according to researchers at the Kellogg School of Management.
With government workers now comprising more than half of labor union membership in the United States, the priorities of current union leadership may be more at odds with those of average working Americans than at any time previously.
For the most part, public-sector workers enjoy more paid leave and vacation time, more job security, better benefits for which they pay less, and in many cases higher salaries than private sector employees.
Historically, the mission of public-employee unions has been to preserve and augment the benefits of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and others in their ranks who serve the public. However, the budgetary crisis that is nudging many state and local governments closer to bankruptcy is making many union rallying cries ring more hollow by the day.

The Hill reports:

The country's public pension system is grossly underfunded and needs an overhaul, Rep. Devin Nunes said this week.

The California Republican is promoting legislation designed to gauge the extent of the problem, while also establishing a ban on federal bailouts of public pension programs.

"Part of the problem that we have today … is we don't know what the truly unfunded liabilities are," Nunes told Fox News on Friday. "We need to know exactly what the number is. We can't make decisions at any level of government if we don't know what the true undisclosed benefit is or liability is for these benefits."

Nunes' comments came on the same day that the Pittsburgh City Council passed an emergency funding bill designed to prevent the state of Pennsylvania from taking over the city's underfunded pension system.

That episode, Nunes said, "proves a point that everyone in America needs to know what is it exactly that we owe our public employees."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

States and Illegal Immigration: "Federalism in Action"

The New York Times reports:

Legislative leaders in at least half a dozen states say they will propose bills similar to a controversial law to fight illegal immigration that was adopted by Arizona last spring, even though a federal court has suspended central provisions of that statute.

The efforts, led by Republicans, are part of a wave of state measures coming this year aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

Legislators have also announced measures to limit access to public colleges and other benefits for illegal immigrants and to punish employers who hire them.

Next week, at least five states plan to begin an unusual coordinated effort to cancel automatic United States citizenship for children born in this country to illegal immigrant parents.

Opponents say that effort would be unconstitutional, arguing that the power to grant citizenship resides with the federal government, not with the states. Still, the chances of passing many of these measures appear better than at any time since 2006, when many states, frustrated with inaction in Washington, began proposing initiatives to curb illegal immigration.

Republicans gained more than 690 seats in state legislatures nationwide in the November midterms, winning their strongest representation at the state level in more than 80 years.

Few people expect movement on immigration issues when Congress reconvenes next week in a divided Washington. Republicans, who will control the House of Representatives, do not support an overhaul of immigration laws that President Obama has promised to continue to push. State lawmakers say it has fallen to them to act.

“The federal government’s failure to enforce our border has functionally turned every state into a border state,” said Randy Terrill, a Republican representative in Oklahoma who has led the drive for anti-illegal immigration laws there. “This is federalism in action,” he said. “The states are stepping in and filling the void left by the federal government.”

See analysis of the Arizona law by the National Conference of State Legislatures.