Monday, February 25, 2013

Predictions: Fisher v. University of Texas

At The Volokh Conspiracy blog, George Mason University Law Professor Ilya Somin writes: oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas largely bears out what most observers expected - five conservative justices seem inclined to strike down Texas' affirmative action program. After presentations in class, do you agree with Professor Somin: will the Supreme Court eliminate race as a component of UT-Austin's wholistic admissions program by a narrow margin? 
MAKE A PREDICTION: what will the Supreme Court decide in Fisher v. University of Texas? Will the court uphold the university's admissions policy or strike it down as unconstitutional? Recalling that Justice Kagan has recused herself, what will the margin be? (4-4, 5-3, 6-2, 7-1, 8-0)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Selecting Judges

Wow - he looks intimidating!
States have developed a variety of methods for selecting judges. For example, Texas' judges are elected - from the local Justice of the Peace all the way to Justices of the Texas Supreme Court. And in Virginia, on the other hand, judges are appointed by the state legislature - and then must be reappointed from time-to-time. What method of selecting judges best guarantees that judges will serve effectively in all of the ways envisioned by the Founders:

Should judges be appointed (for life) or elected?

Now that you have read Federalist #78, be sure to explain Hamilton's point-of-view on lifetime appointments as well as your own.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Evolving Nature and Style of Representation

Thirty-three years ago this week, on March 19, 1979, the U.S. House of Representatives inaugurated live, televised debate on the House Floor. Representative Albert Gore, Jr. of Tennessee was the first Member to speak before the cameras on the historic occasion: “It is a solution for the lack of confidence in government,” Congressman Gore said, alluding to the public’s post-Watergate demand for a more transparent government. “The marriage of this medium and of our open debate have the potential, Mr. Speaker, to revitalize representative democracy.”

Today, we are in the midst of another media revolution: email, text messages, websites, mashups, wikis, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Foursquare, Quora, RSS Feeds, LinkedIn... today, the Internet is social, interactive, and collaborative. All who are connected to the Internet have the whole world at their fingertips in ways that Congressman Gore and Speaker O'Neill could never have imagined! On the other hand, it is possible that Representative Gore's comment from 1979 has implications for us today - as we consider ways that social media shape legislators' evolving relationships with their constituents.

With today's assignment in mind, please share your opinion on the question below:

What impact should social media have on the way legislators represent their constituents as trustees and delegates today?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Presidential Power - for the 21st century

More than once over these last several months, I've mentioned that our reading for the day is a "classic" or that the author is a "giant" among famous political scientists... well... today you'll be reading Richard Neustadt, the "greatest of the greats" in terms of scholarship on the modern presidency. Before he began his career in academia, Neustadt worked as a special assistant in the Truman administration.
After Democrats were swept out of the executive branch by the 1952 elections, Neustadt took a teaching job at Columbia - where he soon began to realize that "current theory" of presidential leadership did not mesh well with his experiences in the White House staff.

In 1960, Professor Neustadt published his transformative study of the presidency, called Presidential Power. In it, Neustadt suggests that that formal powers of the presidency, as outlined in the Constitution, are "rather minor" and that the Presidency "amounted to little more than a clerkship, by which the occupant of the White House is in the position to provide services to others in the Federal government" (Shea, 222.
Neustadt's book is also a prescription: it's a guide for presidents to understand the true breadth of their informal powers. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, and Clinton sought Professor Neustadt's advice; Neustadt's book was required reading among President Nixon's aides; and it is said that both Presidents Kennedy and Clinton kept copies of Presidential Power next to their beds in the White House.

Does information available to the public via the Internet (generally) and social media sites (specifically), make it more or less difficult for President Obama to be persuasive in the ways that Professor Neustadt has described? (Explain with a connection to Neustadt's work!)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Reflecting on the Fiscal Cliff

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8) was passed by the United States Congress on January 1, 2013. President Obama signed the bill into law on January 2nd.

Writing for the Associated Press, Alan Fram has called it "Congress' excruciating, extraordinary New Year's Day approval of a compromise."

The U.S. Senate approved the bill first by a bipartisan margin: 89–8. Three Democrats and five Republicans voted against. The House passed the bill by a vote of 257–167. Note again the bipartisanship: 85 Republicans and 172 Democrats voted in favor while 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats were opposed.

The final votes on the bill came near the last possible minute on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day: just before the end of the Congressional session. (All pending legislation expired when the 112th Congress ended at 12 noon on January 3, 2013.)

Reactions have been strong... and mixed:

Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal wrote: "the compromise bill... represented the largest tax increase in the past two decades."

On the other hand, Jonathan Weisman wrote in The New York Times that the compromise "makes permanent virtually all of the Bush tax cuts — a goal that Mr. Bush chased through the rest of his presidency."

You are a well-informed, engaged citizen... what are your thoughts on the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 - IS THE COUNTRY BETTER OFF BECAUSE OF THE DEAL?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Roles of Modern Presidents

In his landmark book, The American Presidency, political scientist Clinton Rossiter has identified at least ten roles that modern Presidents juggle each and every day that they serve. At the conclusion of his first chapter, Professor Rossiter writes about putting the pieces of the job back together into a "seamless unity." He explains:

"The Presidency is... a whole greater than and different from the sum of its parts, an office whose power and presige are something more than the arithmetical total of all its functions. The President is not one kind of official during one part of the day, another kind during another part - administrator in the morning, legislator at lunch, king in the afternoon, commander before dinner, and politician at odd moments that come his weary way. He is all these things all the time, and any one of his functions feeds upon and into all the others. ...

Mr. Truman, it is said, used to keep a sign on his desk that read: "The buck stops here."That, in the end, is the essence of the Presidency. It is the one office in all the land whose occupant is forbidden to pass the buck."

Do we expect too much from modern presidents? If so, is there any way to shift some of the roles and responsibilities to others or to other parts of government? How would that work?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Models of Presidential Power

"The fact that the Constitution allows for a powerful president does not mean that it mandates one."         - Professor Daniel Shea

During much of the 19th century, most presidents held to the more conservative "whig model" of presidential power, meaning that they were limited to the powers expressly granted in the Constitution. beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, and continuing with his cousin Frankiln D. Roosevelt, the more activist "stewardship model" took hold. In addition, a host of institutional changes broadened presidential powers, including the development of the Executive Office of the President, the addition of more presidential advisors, and, more recently, an expanded role for the vice president. Today there is little question that the presidency is at the very center of our political system.

Is the modern, institutional presidency too powerful - changing the nature of American democracy in ways that endanger the Founders' vision for our country?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Should the Electoral College System be Preserved?

Many forces shape the conduct of presidential elections, but none is more significant than the Electoral College. This complex, rather odd institution was another compromise at the Constitutional Convention, a means to moderate the "passions of the public" and to allow smaller states a greater say in the selection of the president.

Today, the Electoral College system shapes the politics of how and where presidential candidates campaign in the general election. And, occasionally, as in the 2000 presidential election, who wins the White House.

Walter Berns, Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute says KEEP IT: "I doubt we could come up with a better system than they (the Founders) did."

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) says DUMP IT: " The Electoral College is an antiquated institution that has outlived its purpose... it represents a serious and persistent flaw in our current system."

What do YOU think about the Electoral College??
(For full credit, offer evidence from your READER to bolster your argument!)

Monday, September 24, 2012

myTwitter Roundup - Part Two: The Presidential Debates

BACKGROUND: Our goal is to prepare students for responsible citizenship and life-long engagement in the political process. More specifically, we aim to create Twitter feeds as personalized, annotated miniblogs that connect students to searchable current affairs and political analysis.

See @ParishGOV for more details.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT (daily work grade):
  1. Google "Presidential Debates" and do a little background research first. You'll want to be able to answer the following essential question: According to political scientists and political analysts, why are the Presidential Debates important?
  2. Use your academic Twitter feed to find a story that relates to the Presidential Debates (which begin soon... as you've no-doubt discovered).
  3. Re-tweet the link to the story.
  4. Write 3-4 sentences of reflection: start with a brief summary, then maybe share your opinion about the story, perhaps explain the story's connection(s) to our study of government.
  5. Post an excerpt from your writing as a comment to our blog - remember to add a link to the story!
  6. Tweet a comment - of your own (!) - about the Presidential Debates. Add a hashtag: #ParishGov

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Toward More Civil Political Discourse

1) Celebrity endorsements;
2) Analyzing the way things are said (hand over heart, invoking God, etc.) vs. what is said; and/or
3) Making hyperbolic claims about candidates (terrorist, anti-American, waging a war on women).

Which of these three do you consider to be actually helpful for the average American in deciding whom to support (like a political cartoon uses irony/exaggeration to make a point), which do you consider “white noise”(irrelevant but of no real harm), and which do you consider potentially harmful to the electorate making informed, good choices? If possible, find a specific example (discussed in class or on your own) from this presidential election to analyze.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Who isn't coming to dinner"

Rehearse 'Deliberative Dialogue' by writing about "Who isn't coming to dinner" from The Economist.

The Economist editorial suggests that three factors are at work that help to explain why Congress fails to live up to citizens' expectations: 1) growing ideological differences between members of each party in Congress; 2) flaws in the fundamental design of our Congressional system; and 3) members' unwillingness to honor the Founders' belief in “deliberation, institutional loyalty and compromise.”

Which of these three factors seems the biggest challenge that Congress must overcome? WHY?

1. To satisfy the requirements for this assignment, you must either: 1) post your opinion - thoughtfully; and/or 2) respond to one of your classmates' posts - in the spirit of deliberative dialogue. (Daily grade)
2. Consider writing in MS Word and using copy-and-paste to enter your comment... at least until you are comfortable using our blog.
3. Remember to 'sign' your post with first name and last initial - to earn full credit.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On The Filter Bubble

Now that we have viewed Eli Pariser's TED Talk (from March, 2011) and discussed its implications in class, please comment on one of the following questions:

1) Is it okay if you are only seeing search results (articles, ads, etc.) that mirror your political beliefs?
2) Do we need a policy? Should government set guidelines for filtering algorithms on the Internet?

For further study: visit Eli Pariser's BLOG, called THE FILTER BUBBLE

To satisfy the requirements for this assignment, you must either: 1) post your opinion - thoughtfully; and/or 2) respond to one of your classmates' posts - in the spirit of deliberative dialogue.
(Daily grade)

1. Consider writing in MS Word and using copy-and-paste to enter your comment... at least until you are comfortable using our blog.
2. In order for the post to be saved at our blog you'll likely need to sign-in; use this opportunity to follow our blog!
3. Remember to 'sign' your post with first name and last initial ONLY - to earn full credit.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Summer!

Our blog will go on vacation for the summer beginning on Monday, May 21st. Look for more students' opinions regarding current affairs and issues in government when we return to school in August.

Our goal of developing informed, engaged young citizens who participate - and make an impact - in our American democracy never goes on vacation, however: early voting has begun in advance of Primary Day on May 29th... it's time to GO VOTE!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Does Voter Turnout Really Matter?

Iraqi voter - c. 2010
Americans put a great deal of faith in the election process; however, it seems that only a modest number are willing to get involved. What difference does it make if many Americans do not seem interested in politics and that Americans on the whole turn out to vote less often than citizens in other democracies? Is this really something to worry about?

The elite democratic model suggests that full participation is not so important; instead, we should wonder whether enough citizens are involved to make the electoral process competitive. After all, the people who don't vote also tend to be the least well-informed... do we really want uninformed voters involved in the process of selecting our leaders? Some observers would also suggest that less informed citizens are more prone to radical policy shifts - so their absence on election day actually adds a degree of stability to public policy and the political process.

In an opinion-editorial for Newsweek magazine, conservative columnist George Will argues that "good government - not the right to vote - is a fundamental human right. From Will's perspective, declining voter turnout is no cause for worry... as long as fairness and political opportunity are guaranteed.

The popular (majoritarian) democratic model, on the other hand, puts a premium on electoral involvement - perhaps because citizens develop a sense that they have a stake in whatever public policy results from their political decisions. The popular model suggests that systems of government designed to reflect the will of the people - the ours here in the United States - will do so better, and in the long run will be more prosperous and stable, if average citizens join the electoral process.

In his book Why Americans Hate Politics, liberal journalist E. J. Dionne writes that "a nation that hates politics will not long thrive as a democracy."

Which commentator, Will or Dionne, comes closer to representing YOUR point-of-view on whether modest voter participation in America is really something to worry about?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Extended Discussion on Topical Debates

General Details:
Topical debates involve pairs of students offering persuasive arguments on each side of an issue from our studies in American government. Debates last up to 8 minutes total, with students speaking in the following order: pro (1’-2’), con (1’-2’), pro (1’-2’), con (1’-2’).

In terms of assessment, debaters are evaluated on the cogency of their arguments, the quality of their research, and the clarity of their presentations—not on whether their side “wins” in class. Our goal is to identify as many arguments and positions as possible with respect to the topic at hand.

After the debaters speak, our discussion in class follows a regular pattern: 1) students conduct an initial, preliminary vote: pro or con; 2) students discuss: "Why did you vote the way you did?" 3) debaters follow-up with a rebuttal period to address classmates' comments: "Is there anything you wish you had said... but didn't?" 4) students add: "Are there any ideas that you wish you had heard from debaters... but didn't?" 5) debaters offer their last words - "In conclusion, vote for the (PRO/CON) because..." and finally, 6) students conduct a final vote: pro or con.

The purpose of this space is to enable and encourage students to take our topical debates online: follow the links below to read debate summaries and then use comment sections to extend and deepen the discussion.

Here are the topics and resolutions for this round of debates:

Topic #1 - "Party Politics"
RESOLVED: The policies of the (Democratic / Republican) Party more closely match the values of the American people.

Topic #2 - "American democracy is unthinkable without political parties."
RESOLVED: Political parties enhance the democratic process.

Topic #3 - "Proposition 8 = Judicial Tyranny?"
RESOLVED: Judges should not have overturned the will of the voters regarding gay marriage in California.

Topic #4 - "An opening for a third party?"
RESOLVED: The United States needs a third political party.

Topic #5 - "The GOP nomination contest"
RESOLVED: Mitt Romney will be the Republican Party's nominee for President of the United States.

Topic #6 - "Komen v Planned Parenthood"
RESOLVED: The Komen Foundation's decision to withhold funds from Planned Parenthood is reasonable.

Topic #7 - "The GM Bailout"
RESOLVED: The government bailout of General Motors was fair and appropriate.

Topic #1 - "Party Politics"

RESOLVED: The policies of the (Democratic / Republican) Party more closely match the values of the American people.

The Republican Party is more trusted and best represents the values and sentiments of the American people.

In the chart below from , the national percentages of Republicans and Democrats have shifted significantly from 2010 to 2012. The Democrat’s affiliation has decreased 2.9% while the Republican’s affiliation has increased 3.6%, putting Republicans in a 3.4% lead. On the major topics of the economy and taxes, immigration, and national security, there is an average of 8% more people who support Republicans rather than Democrats. With the economy and taxes, Republicans want to cut taxes for everyone to relieve economic pressure, unlike the Democrats who want to raise taxes for upper class citizens in order to give handouts to the middle and lower classes.1 Additionally, Republicans better support a free market, a founding principle of the nation. On the stance of immigration, Republicans want to secure our boarders and implement an electronic citizenship verification system to make sure that American jobs are not wrongfully taken. If illegal immigrants want to become citizens, they will need to enroll themselves in a program. Democrats on the other hand want to spend taxpayer dollars to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.1 Finally, on the issue of national security, Democrats tend to focus on internal problems, while Republicans look abroad in order to minimize the number of potential threats to best keep the country safe. The Republican stance on these issues prove that the policies of the Republican Party best support the values of the American people. (Morgan K.)

The policies of the Democratic Party more closely match the values of the American people.

The Democratic Party best represents the values of the American people for several reasons. First, in the past 7 elections ending with 2008, the majority of American voters have identified with the Democratic Party more than the Republican (or Independent party) Party identification. If the Democratic party has had a constant advantage in party supporters and people who call themselves Democrats, than that must mean that the Democratic party fulfills and embodies the desires of the majority of American people, otherwise they would not be party identifiers (Pew Research).

Second, the Democratic Party and women share common values and priorities, including supporting our families, protecting our country, and advancing the issues that matter most to women of all ages and ethnicities. (

Third, Democrats are committed to protecting America’s natural resources and ensuring the quality of our air, water, and land for future generations. Currently the Obama administration is working to protect our environment by directing us towards a more sustainable America. Democrats want to develop comprehensive energy and climate legislation (help to prevent global warning) to protect environment (

The fourth and final reason Democrats best represent the values of the American people, is because they (Obama and Democrats) are working to stabilize the financial system and have helped to prevent a second Great Depression. President Obama inherited an economy in free fall, with huge deficits, skyrocketing health care costs, dwindling employment, and banking and housing markets on the brink of collapse. Although we still have a long way to go, but we are now moving forward on the road to recovery. (Emily L.)

What we stand for

Who we stand for


every ethnicity

voting rights




civil rights

LGBT community




young people/students

national security

small business community


Topic #2 - "American democracy is unthinkable without political parties."

RESOLVED: Political parties enhance the democratic process.

Have you ever sat down and thought about what political parties actually do for the American style of government? Do political parties actually help? In this blog I will convince you that the political parties in America actually take away from the process and limit the participation of the American people. First we must discuss how people choose a political party to support. While some citizens do actually pay attention to the issues and make an informed decision, the truth is that many simply follow the trend of others in their same situation whether it’s their family, their coworkers, their generation, or their neighborhood; these things create an uninformed public.

Next we must agree that candidates will do anything to win an election, in knowing this we can also see that many candidates will compromise their beliefs in order to get the backing of a political party. This lack of passion for an issue will cause this candidate to be less motivated about the issue and subsequently less likely to fight on behalf of the people who, in actuality, truly support this issue.

Last it is important to say that the party system often causes issues to seem black and white with no middle ground. This will cause politicians to refuse to compromise in the fear that they will lose the backing of their party, like former Senator Arlen Specter did because he believed the opposing side had a better view on the issues. All of these factors combined together create a system of government in which the people are forced to choose between two extremes when the middle may be what is best for the country. (Tucker D.)

Topic #3 - "Proposition 8 = Judicial Tyranny?"

RESOLVED: Judges should NOT have overturned the will of the voters regarding gay marriage in California.

Though the judges that overturned Proposition 8 due to its unconstitutional nature, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ overturning of this public proposition is more unconstitutional that the proposition itself.  One of the key values of United States government is voting.  The people’s right to vote plays a huge role in the workings of this government and the struggle to require this right has played a huge part of this countries history.  When the Ninth Circuit Court of California overturned Proposition 8, they took away one of the great aspects of what it means to be part of the American Government.  The action of overturning this proposition violated the people of California’s right to freedom of speech by showing them that their right to vote was basically meaningless when trying act upon what the people believed in.  The cause of making the people of California’s also will affect their willingness to vote, which has proven to be a pressing matter recently.  The overturning of Proposition 8 gives the people an impression that no matter what they want or how they vote, their opinion is not valued.  Also the decision to overturn was based on a biased opinion, furthermore showing the Ninth Circuit Court’s judicial Tyranny.  The District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker, the one to over turn the proposition, is gay.  This biased opinion, the violation of the people’s freedom of speech, and the wasted political pathway, are all reasons that point us to believe the Ninth Circuit’s decision to overturn the proposition was unconstitutional judicial tyranny. (Nick I.)

Team Ellis has chosen the pro side of this debate, arguing that the votes made by the citizens of California, should not have been over turned by the judges, because we feel that the judges have abused their powers by doing so. The term judicial tyranny is often used to describe rulings that unlawfully validates or invalidates the policy decisions made by the popular vote in this case. This case is seen as unlawful in our eyes because the judges use their power to change the outcome of something decided by the citizens of California, and if the people took a vote and majority of the population voted against the law then it is definitely judicial tyranny for the judge to come back in and change that. We, as a country use and have created the constitution to get away from tyranny, and when the judges override our votes they are abusing their power. According to the definition of judicial tyranny, the judges were wrong in performing this because they have used their power in an abusive manner by ignoring their people’s wants. The U.S. has also created checks and balances in the government to avoid having one group having too much power, and these checks and balances are supposed to split the power up not allowing anyone group to have too much, and if one group did abuse their power, like the judges have done, it would be tyrannical and oppressive, not allowing for the checks and balances to take action. (Chris M.)

Proposition 8 defies the constitutional rights of equal protection right, freedom of assembly, and due process clause. Besides Proposition 8 violating the constitution, it is also a prejudice and discriminatory action by the will of the voters preventing homosexuals from their pursuit of happiness. There should be fair treatment to all men and women whether gay or not including their right to marry because according to the 14th amendment in its equal protection right clause which staes that “all men are created equal”. Not only that but it also goes against the freedom of assembly of a group of people expressing themselves. Having to pass proposition 8 would have made a feisty dispute about violating due process clause which is the state having to respect all legal rights of a person. The Constitution and the rights afforded to the citizens of the United States are fundamental and guaranteed and cannot be changed even by a vote of the American people. These rights can only be changed through the Amendment process, as outlined in the Constitution. In other words, the Constitution would need to be changed through due process of law. It is the duty of the judicial branch to interpret and defend the Constitution. In conclusion, proposition 8 should have been overturned by the judges. (Dani R.)

Gay marriage has been one of the most controversial topics over the past couple of years. Certain states such as California have taken this topic head on. Recently proposition 8 was presented to California attempting to rid of gay marriage laws. The proposition was taken to court in which the judges ruled it to be unconstitutional. The Fourteenth Amendment says that no state shall: “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The first part of that sentence is known as the “Due Process Clause” and the second part is the “Equal Protection Clause.” Both clauses played a role in this case. As for the Equal Protection Clause, on its face, it requires that all persons be treated equally under the law. In reality, however, many, many laws require that different categories of people receive different treatment. For these reasons we can protect the judges decision to reject proposition 8.  (Cooper L)

Topic #4 - "An opening for a third party?"

RESOLVED: The United States needs a third political party.

PRO #1
Some feel that the two-party system is flawed because it often forces people to compromise, i.e. choosing one political party for certain aspects of it while possessing the desire to support other causes that this party rejects. Americans have defined a cut and dry line of political thought with the two party systems: one can either choose Republican or Democrat, but there is no middle ground. There exists no combination party that allows the voter to vote based upon all of their values. After all, Americans’ ideas have been rapidly changing over the years, shouldn’t they get to choose who they would want to govern based on all of their beliefs?

The formation of a third political party could bring America closer to its founding principles; the idea that all men should be able to have a say in the government. By creating a third party, one that includes ideas intermixed from both existing parties, man would have the opportunity to feel he has full representation based upon all of his beliefs. This would encourage voting, because with a third party, people would be more willing to vote. When faced with the ballot, the voting citizen would be able to choose based upon all of their beliefs, not just focusing on the most important ones.

In fact, 52% of all Americans would like to add a third major political party. The addition of another party would increase voter’s choice and therefore increase voting. America today is too complicated to be encompassed by a single line the liberal on the left and conservatives on the right. Other, legitimate, viewpoints are excluded. Therefore, the addition of a third party would diminish this hindrance on American’s choice of thought. (Emily K.)
PRO #2
An estimated 37% of Americans call themselves Independent voters due to what they perceive as extremism by the Democratic and Republican parties. With the development of a third party, the independent voters would have government officials to represent them and their views. Also, a third party would bring a compromise to the views of the Republican and Democratic parties by using views from both parties. A third party would encourage more participation by the citizens in voting by appealing to a less extremist group of people. People would not be forced to choose between two extreme parties, but be able to have a compromise in the middle. By developing a third party, competition will yield a superior candidate by focusing on important issues the Republican and Democratic parties ignore. Also, it will provide solutions that will appeal to both sides. (Anthony E.)

CON #1
Our group is against the resolution that a third party would benefit America. First of all, a third party usually branches off of the republican or democratic party. For example, the Tea Party is just a very conservative version of the republican party. Eventually, this will split the vote between the republican party voters, giving the democrats an advantage. If the third party gets serious enough, then the republican candidates will focus on their ideals, similar to Santorum sating Romney is too liberal to appeal to the Tea Party. Second, there are already several third parties in existence. Because of the magnitude of the two main parties, third parties will never get enough support to overpower these two parties. There are 55 million members in the Republican party, 74 million members in the democratic party, and less than 1 million members in third parties total. There is only one member in the house of representatives who belongs in a third party. (Jonny W.)

CON #2
Restricting choice to two parties limits the free marketplace of ideas, reduces each voter's choice, and is undemocratic. A democracy that practices social equality might see that introducing a third party could benefit the citizens. 40% of Americans call themselves Independent Voters ( We need some third official force to come in and try and change political dispute. We can develop a district itself for the set of bolder ideas we need in a global area. The primary focus of a third party is to raise awareness to principals and issues that are often misunderstood.

“Discriminatory ballot access requirements that are heavily biased against independent and third-party candidates, and the exclusion of such candidates from the nationally televised presidential debates jointly sponsored by the two major parties, are other obstacles.”

By introducing a third, fourth, or even fifth party into Americans’ choices it will compel major parties to change and renew themselves. The parties could create a platform that executes all important issues and meets the DEMAND of America’s citizens. To create a more unified democracy the party’s may have different goals but a similar outcome of success and a range of happiness among all citizens. (Mercedez S.)

CON #3
With the recent growth of a third political party, the Tea Party, gaining popularity around the country, a discussion on whether a third political party would benefit the United States was brought up in our study of government. This blog post will discuss several key issues on why a third party would hurt the American system of government. To start we must all realize that America has been a two-party nation since the birth of the country. We began with the Federalist and Anti-Federalists, but did they really go away or rather evolve into a more sophisticated version covering a wider range of issues. Next I call to your attention a two-party system is very stable and has allowed for America to prevail through adverse times in our history, such as building the Constitution and slavery. Last of all, the system in which officials are elected is based on a two-party “winner take all” method in which the largest party gets all the representation for that district. While a third party could potentially get votes the fact is that the number of votes this smaller party would receive would be miniscule in comparison to the larger parties and appear to voters as a waste. The fact of the matter is that America does not need or want a third political party, if one were to arise, this party would not survive in the long run as it would eventually fade out behind the two larger parties. (Tucker D.)

Topic #5 - "The GOP nomination contest"

RESOLVED: Mitt Romney will be the Republican Party's nominee for President of the United States.
Mitt Romney will be the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States because he will rebuild the foundations of the American economy on the principles of free enterprise, hard work, and innovation. His plan will reduce taxes, spending, regulation, and government programs. It will increase trade, energy production, human capital, and labor flexibility. It relinquishes power to the states instead of claiming to have the solution to every problem.  Any American living through this economic crisis will immediately recognize the severity of the break that Mitt Romney proposes from our current course. He is calling for a fundamental change in Washington’s view of how economic growth and prosperity are achieved, how jobs are created, and how government can support these endeavors. Romney’s will get America back to work (1).  Also Romney has gained far more endorsements than any other candidates.  This includes endorsements from former president George W. Bush.  Mitt Romney has raised 63.7 million dollars towards his campaign while the rest of the candidates are significantly behind him.  The closest candidate to Romney is Ron Paul with 31.1 million dollars (4).

Romney will become the nominee by defeating his fellow Republican candidates.  There are really three key position issues that Mitt Romney's stance is far and away better than that of his rival, Newt Gingrich. The three issues are: China, the economy, and foreign policy.  In regards to China, Mitt Romney has adopted a less negative approach than Mr. Gingrich. For example, Mr. Gingrich has repeatedly stated beliefs that China suppresses dissent and abuses human rights. Although this is accurate, it is not wise to anger a nation that owns a total amount of 1.15 trillion dollars of U.S. debt (2).  On the other hand, Mitt Romney has adopted a stance that, although firm, leaves room for movement on both sides.  One of the biggest challenges that Mitt Romney faces with China is righting the trade imbalance that is currently very much in favor of China. By being tougher on China, Romney will make America's economy stronger.  On September 6, 2011, Mitt Romney became the second Republican candidate after Jon Huntsman to offer a fully detailed and fleshed-out economic plan.  This obviously sets him ahead of Newt Gingrich, whose own economic views have been muddled at best and unclear at worst.  His plan emphasizes critical structural adjustments rather than short-term fixes. He seeks to reduce taxes, spending, regulation, and government programs. Furthermore, he seeks to increase trade, energy production, human capital, and labor flexibility.  Mitt Romney has rolled out a fully fleshed-out foreign policy agenda. The policy plan outlined by Mitt Romney deals with one main issue which will strengthen the United States' position, as a military super power.(3)

Mitt Romney will be the Republican Party’s nominee and will be the candidate that can both defeat President Obama and get our amazing country back on track. (Michael M.)

(2) Terence P. Jeffrey, CNS NEWS

Mitt is leading the delegate count right now and possesses a large portion of nationwide support that could carry him to the office. Romney currently leads all other candidates with 123 delegates, while Rick Santorum has 72 delegates; Newt Gingrich has 32, and Ron Paul has 19. Being leader brings about momentum in his elections. Delegate count will always have some type of advantage against the other candidates.

Newt kills Santorum’s chances of winning the 2012 presidential nomination. While many people suggest that Santorum has a real chance to win the nomination, Newt Gingrich stays in the race proving with facts that Santorum cannot win. By splitting the vote, Gingrich prevents Santorum from winning big numbers in the South. Gingrich has shown no desire to drop out and by the time he does step out, it will likely be too late for Santorum to make any sort of real comeback.

Romney has a financial advantage against other candidates. A candidate like Mitt Romney has more money, with more money; more ads can be aired, making the public more aware of his stances toward policy. Political advertisements function as a way to sway the opinions of large numbers of voters, and they are a main part of all campaigns. The “Daisy” attack ad from Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign, which led him to a landslide victory, proves how impact and influential these ads can be. Santorum is weak by the fact that he cannot backup his strong debate performances with political ads. He simply does not have the money and resources that Romney has making it extremely difficult to defeat him. (Josh T)

Some believe that Senator Mitt Romney is the best Republican nominee for president. This blog will discuss the many points of why Romney is not best suited for this position. For one, he is a Mormon. Why is that such a big deal? It is because approximately 75% of Americans consider themselves Christians, and Mormons reject the belief in the Holy Trinity, one of Christianity’s central tenets. If religion is a small concern in the election process and presidency, President Obama would not have been picked on for leaving God out of his Thanksgiving prayers. Another major reason why Romney is not the most ideal nominee is because he concentrates a majority of his time on economic issues, rather than current events, such as the Planned Parenthood versus the Komen Foundation. Even though he makes correcting our economy one of his big points, the fact still remains that as he served as governor of Massachusetts, he raised taxes and government spending a significant amount. CBS News says, “Mitt Romney's Harvard MBA and gold-plated resume convinced many business leaders he would follow in the tradition of corporate-friendly Republicans when he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002. Within three years, some had a vastly different opinion, after Romney's efforts raised the tax bill on businesses by $300 million.” Lastly, his views lean too closely to the Democratic side of the spectrum and not enough strong values that Republicans look for in their candidates.  (Molly A.)

We believe that Mitt Romney should NOT be the republican candidate for President as his previous experience as Massachusetts governor has demonstrated his lack of conservative republican beliefs.  For example, although Romney has stated he will repeal Obamacare, Obamacare was fashioned after a very similar plan passed by Romney in the state of Massachusetts that was designed to provide insurance for all Massachusetts residence by mid-2007.  This is not a very republican thing to do, this type of program is more of a democratic type program and we believe it will make Romney lose votes.  Another example is government spending, which vastly increased in Massachusetts during Romney’s period as governor.  State spending increased an estimated 24 percent over Romney’s final 3 years.  This generally means bigger government spending which is more of a democratic thing to do which would also lose him votes in the Republican race for candidacy.  Romney also raised taxes during his term as governor, including business taxes by an estimated 400 million dollars per year.  Massachusetts corporate tax climate now ranks 47 in the nation.  This also scares off Republican voters because of Romney’s tendencies to raise taxes which limit business growth and profits.  Voters may also turn their back on Romney because of his 15 percent effective tax rate on income of over 20 million. Although Romney pays all the tax that he legally owes, many working Americans are in a higher tax bracket even though they don’t make as much earnings as Romney.  These are a few of the main reasons why Mitt Romney should NOT be the republican candidate to run for President.  (Preston K.)


Topic #6 - "Komen v Planned Parenthood"

RESOLVED: The Komen Foundation's decision to withhold funds from Planned Parenthood is reasonable.
PRO #1
Thesis: We believe that the Susan G. Komen foundation had the right to stop donating to Planned Parenthood because the money the Komen foundation raises is theirs and they can do whatever they want with it.

Argument 1:

Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that Susan G. Komen has to fund or keep donating to Planned Parenthood because they had previously.

Susan G. Komen shouldn’t be donating to them in the first place:

Why should the most widely known, largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the United States be funding the country’ most well known abortion advocate?

Planned Parenthood is being investigated by Representative Cliff Stearns, an anti-abortion Florida Republican, who says that he is trying to learn if the group spent public money to provide abortions. If there is even a doubt that PP was using Komen’s donations to fund abortions instead of mammograms, they absolutely have the right to pull their donations. It’s their money and if PP wasn’t using the money appropriately, they have the right to take it away.

Susan G. Komen has always been a Republican Foundation.

After its founding in 1982 in Dallas by Nancy Goodman Brinker, Susan G. Komen gave thousands of dollars in donations supporting George Bush’s Republican Campaign, and after he won, he made her the United States’ Ambassador to Hungary.

The Komen Foundation is obviously pro-life, why should it support abortions

Argument 2:

The only reason that Komen reinstituted their donations was because of the public outcry. If they stopped funding PP, they would lose all of their Democratic donations while pleasing the small pro-life organizations.

This was also not a huge lost for PP. After the donations were pulled, within 24 hours, Planned Parenthood received more than 400,000 dollars in donations along with two 250,000 pledges from the New York Mayor (Michael Bloomberg) and the CEO of Bonanza Oil Co. in Dallas.

Another contributing factor is that Planned Parenthood doesn’t even do mammograms, they don’t even have the equipment. They just refer those patients somewhere else. Why should Komen support the “middle-man”? (a.k.a. PP) when they could be giving good money to a company that actually does mammograms? (Cate C. and Sam K.)

PRO #2
It is reasonable that the Susan G. Komen Foundation took away their grants from Planned Parenthood.  Under a new mandate, Susan G. Komen was not allowed to fund any companies under government investigation. Planned Parenthood is in fact under congressional investigation by Representative Cliff Stearns for using federal funds and taxpayer money to fund abortions, which is not allowed. The foundation is simply following this new criterion related to giving grants to certain companies.

It can be argued as well that the Komen Foundation has political motivation in addition to following the mandate. It is reasonable that the Komen Foundation would take away their grants from Planned Parenthood politically. In an interview with the Washington Post, Americans United For Life President Charmaine Yoest, she says, “We’re so used to seeing Planned Parenthood succeed at defining themselves as the trendy place to be, and for Komen to make such a smart decision in recognizing the reality behind Planned Parenthood spin,” she adds. “As a breast cancer survivor, I was always troubled with this whole idea that the nation’s largest abortion provider was enmeshed in the breast cancer fight when they weren’t actually doing mammograms. I look at this as smart stewardship.” It is understandable that as an organization dedicated to saving lives, they would not want to be associated with an organization related to death.

Additionally, Planned Parenthood has been accused of not questioning or reporting patients with signs of sexual abuse, performing unlawful late-term abortions, as well as abortions without licenses. Due to these unethical and disturbing accusations, it is reasonable that Komen would not want to be related to such a company. Lastly, it has even been reported that some people have stopped participating in Komen’s Race for the Cure because of affiliation with Planned Parenthood, as well as deciding to not donate to the Foundation. According to the evidence presented, we find that the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood is not only reasonable, but the best interest for the organization as a whole. (Megan R.)

PRO #3
The Komen Foundation had every right to revoke their grant from Planned Parenthood due to the fact that they are a private foundation and they have ultimate control over what they do with their own money and affairs. A grant is defined as a bounty, contribution, gift, or subsidy, bestowed by a government or other organization for specified purposes to an eligible recipient. Grants are usually conditional upon certain qualifications as to the use, maintenance of specified standards, or a proportional contribution by the grantee or other grantor.  Due to the current circumstances with Planned Parenthood, it was understandable that they would revoke their funding to a foundation that did not solely provide for mammograms and breast exams. However, Komen still proves for under-privileged women by not cutting the grants for three of the 19 affected Planned Parenthood programs (northern Colorado; Orange County, Calif.; and Waco, Texas) "because they are the only services for low-income women in their communities" Nancy Brinker, CEO of the Komen Foundation, said.

Planned Parenthood does provide enough support for under-privileged women regarding general health issues, but the Komen Foundation is mainly focused on researching and preventing breast cancer and Planned Parenthood could only provide so many resources exactly in Komen's criteria. In fact, Planned Parenthood out-sources their mammograms to other locations like hospitals, mobile units and freestanding centers instead of providing them themselves. When Komen "cut out the middle man" they actually could save money by simplifying the process for examinations. Brinker outlined the current goals for the Komen Foundation by saying that “we have decided not to fund, wherever possible, pass-through grants. We were giving them money, they were sending women out for mammograms. What we would like to have are clinics where we can directly fund mammograms.” By prioritizing their grantees, Komen can efficiently expedite their funds and provide a more direct foundation for women seeking help with breast cancer.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (a Democrat from New Jersey) agrees with Komen’s decision by saying: "Today, the interests of women's health prevailed over partisan politics, The Komen Foundation did the right thing." He means that women's health has no place in politics and by removing their funds from Planned Parenthood, the Komen Foundation is looking for a more neutral standing on the political scale. Since the majority of Republicans and conservatives lean toward anti-abortion, they could be offended by Komen's funding to a place where abortions are offered. Now that Komen has neutralized their standings, it is likely that they will receive more funding from corporations or businesses with a more conservative view point and support their actions as well. Since abortion is a hot-button issue in the political world as well, and by eliminating any trace or association with abortions and Planned Parenthood, Komen’s foundation can steer clear of any controversy resulting from politics dealing with abortion. In conclusion, by justly cutting their funding from Planned Parenthood, Komen can now redirect their focus toward providing efficient help with the direct prevention of breast cancer with mammograms, logically using their funds for more research and finally neutralizing their political views in order to receive support from both sides of the political scale. (Brooke B.)

The Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut their funding to Planned Parenthood was unreasonable and hasty. The investigation in Planned Parenthood’s alleged crimes has not been completed yet; in America, one is innocent until proven guilty. The Komen Foundation should not have made such a drastic decision until the official investigation was complete. Planned Parenthood is valuable to women because they provide information dangerous sexually transmitted diseases and mammograms. They also help women get through pregnancies with the sufficient medical care they need.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation cut off Planned Parenthood due to accusations that Planned Parenthood was performing illegal abortions with public money. These accusations had not been investigated when Susan G. Komen announced their decision to cut future funding. This was a political move to avoid a scandal on Komen’s part. Rather than waiting for an actual investigation, The Komen Foundation made a move that went against their views on women’s health to guarantee that they would not get any potential bad press.

Planned Parenthood provides a variety of services - including reproductive healthcare, sex education, cancer screenings and information on sexually transmitted diseases. Komen grants to Planned Parenthood amounts of about $700,000 annually and have helped fund 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals in the past five years, and caters to mostly to poor women who probably couldn’t afford the assistance on their own. The organization has collected more than $1.9 billion for breast cancer research and programs and is affiliated in more than 100 U.S. cities and 50 countries.

26 Democratic senators signed a letter to Komen saying, "It would be tragic if any woman — let alone thousands of women — lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack. We earnestly hope that you will put women's health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision …" Women's health would suffer as a result of the Komen Foundation’s decision. According to the Washington Post, the decision was "all about politics”. Public outrage has led to the Susan G. Komen Foundating restoring their funding to Planned Parenthood. However, their initial decision led to greater scrutiny of their own funding operation and, as a result, they may never repair their image and receive the same level of donations as in the past. (Kianna S.)

1. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is losing a lot of support they once had for such a large and well-known organization because of this decision. Money is flowing in from donations to Planned Parenthood, and not as much to The Komen. “The organization had raised more than $400,000 from more than 6,000 online donors as of Wednesday afternoon, compared with the 100 to 200 donations it receives on an average day, said Tait Sye, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America” according to an article by the Washington Post about the decision.

2. The Komen’s funding to Planned Parenthood was extremely helpful to thousands of women across America in getting screenings done. This funding was extremely beneficially in helping the less fortunate who could not afford these vital and potentially life-saving screenings. This organization received around $600,000 from the Komen Foundation annually to pay for these screenings.

3. The funding from The Komen foundation was not being used towards abortion. Abortion is not the only aspect of Planned Parenthood, the screenings and education provided are what the funding was going to. “The Komen grants to Planned Parenthood did not pay for abortion or contraception services, only cancer detection, according to all parties involved” according to The Atlantic. Abortion is only 3% of all the services provided by Planned Parenthood, according to Planned Parenthood's website. Another point to consider is the seriousness of breast cancer. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in American women. About 225,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S., and 40,000 women will die from breast cancer this year in the U.S. If the Susan G. Komen Foundantion decides to no longer fund Planned Parenthood, many women will not be able to get life-saving breast-cancer screenings.

4. From 2004-2009, Komen affiliates contributed about $3.3 million to programs sponsored by Planned Parenthood. Komen's official website states they "invest money into our local community programs – $93 million in 2011, which provided for 700,000 breast health screenings and diagnostic procedures." Not all state affiliates give grants to Planned Parenthood. However, each state affiliate must forward at least 25% of funds raised in their state to the Komen National Office. Planned Parenthood since did not provide mammograms until Komen came.“Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide more than 800,000 breast cancer screenings annually (Komen funding about $170,000 towards them),” said Stuart Schear, the Planned Parenthood’s vice president for communication.  (Abby T. and Danielle W.)

The Atlantic