Should the Electoral College System be Preserved?

Many forces shape the conduct of presidential elections; few are 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 – keep it, alter it, dump it??
(For full credit, offer evidence from your text OR FROM YOUR OWN RESEARCH to bolster your argument!)

Bursting the Filter Bubble

BACKGROUND: each SaintsGOV student has created an academic Twitter account and begun following a mix of political reporters, political commentators, political media outlets, political scientists, and elected officials. Students also connect with each other and with me through our class Twitter feed, @AllSaintsGOV. (Click HERE for more details about the initial assignment.)

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 search engines that connect students to current affairs and political analysis.


  1. Choose one story from your academic Twitter feed that has captured your attention – re-tweet it.
  2. Write 1-2 sentences in summary. (Please share a link to the story with your summary.)
  3. Write 1-2 sentences that explain the story’s connection(s) to our study of government.
  4. Post your writing as a comment to our blog (See comments section for examples.)

Ethical Debate #1: “That which is not just…”

Answering a critic who pleaded with him to follow the new Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, abolitionist author and spokesman William Lloyd Garrison responded by placing his personal morality above the laws of the United States… On the question of slavery, he said, “That which is not just is not law.”

Kim Davis, Kentucky Clerk, Held in Contempt and Ordered to Jail
(NBC NEWS, September 3, 2015)

A Kentucky clerk is heading to jail after a judge found her in contempt of court for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses to gay couples.

Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, was found in contempt of court on Thursday morning by Judge David Bunning. Davis has said granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples would “violate God’s definition of marriage” and infringe on her personal beliefs as an Apostolic Christian.

Bunning said Davis would be released only when she agreed to follow his order and issue marriage licenses.

Davis was visibly emotional from the stand during the two-hour hearing… <read more>

RESOLVED: All citizens have the right to do as William Lloyd Garrison and Kim Davis have done—to judge whether to follow American laws based on their personal notions of right and wrong, just and unjust.

AGREE or DISAGREE?? After our discussion, please either: 1) add a new comment below; OR 2) respond * respectfully! * to one of your classmates’ comments; OR 3) clarify / expand on something you said in class.

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? <or>
2) Do we need a policy? Should government set guidelines for filtering algorithms on the Internet?

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.

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. Remember to ‘sign’ your post with first name and last initial ONLY – to earn full credit.
3. In order for the post to be saved at our blog you might consider signing-in… use this opportunity to follow our blog!

Selecting Judges

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.

The Evolving Nature and Style of Representation

Rep. Albert Gore, Jr. of Tennessee was the first to speak when the U.S. House of Representatives first began live, televised debate on the House Floor in 1979. “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 has the potential, Mr. Speaker, to revitalize representative democracy.”

2013-10-27-socialmediaiconsToday, we are in the midst of another media revolution: text, email, websites, wikis, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare, Quora, RSS Feeds, Instagram, Vine… today, the Internet is social, interactive, and collaborative. Nonetheless, it’s 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?


Courtney1I’m gonna get on my soap box for a second to talk about my recent trip to London over winter break with my dad. Our shared love  of history, culture (in this case: pub crawls), and walking made for a really fantastic vacation. It was all very ideal for truly taking in every aspect of the greatest city on Earth, and we did do just that- except for London attraction that we wanted to so badly to experience the more we learned about it and that is “Speakers Corner”.

Courtney2“Speakers Corner” is located at the northeast corner of the massive 340 acre Hyde Park near the iconic Marble Arch. It’s just a little stretch of land identical in every way to the rest of the park except on Sundays from around 12-6pm. The two of us stood at the site in the cold rain on New Years day. It was pretty vacant apart from the occasional disgruntled human huddled under a broken umbrella, but had we been there three days earlier we would have witnessed hordes of people from business men from the financial district or blue collar workers on lunch break to university students and housewives to homeless radicals and ordained ministers. They all gather to Speakers Corner, step onto their platforms and bellow out to the onlookers and their sermons, creeds, and calls to action.

This tradition dates back to 1866 when the Chartists occupied the land protesting the suppression of workers rights- specificallyCourtney3 freedom of speech and right to assembly. Police efforts failed to quell them, and 6 years later the UK parliament officially granted Brits the protected right to hold public meetings in the park.

Speakers Corner is a cornerstone of British history in their quest for democracy amid monarchy and has become a living symbol not just for the UK but also to many other countries. A few blocks of pavement where any passerby is free to voice their opinions, converse in dialogues, or even stand upon their soapboxes (or for the more modern and aggressive orators: mini-ladders). This is the only place in the UK where pedestrians are literally on a pedestal and can have a voice free from Parliamentary procedure.

Courtney4Freedom of Speech is certainly something I take for granted here in the land of the free. Besides the occasional castle and the fact that all the cars are opposite, London feels like a city in America. Its as easy to forget about the monarch government as it is to forget how not too long ago the Brits didn’t have their individual freedoms guaranteed like ours in our bill of rights. In fact, freedom of expression wasn’t explicitly guaranteed until the 1998 UK Human Rights Act. This inspired me to look up the real difference between their rights and ours.

European Convention on Human Rights
incorporated in the UK Human Rights Act 1998 – Article 10: Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers..

US Bill of Rights 1791 First Amendment to the Constitution – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In America, laws are passed to grant rights to its citizens, but in Britain, laws are passed to limit government’s ability to interfere. Besides just general connotations due to differences in philosophy, parliament has no “supreme law” and can therefore make “exceptions” to granted freedoms as much as they feel inclined.

Courtney5Speaker’s Corner may be a symbol for freedom of speech but unfortunately there is an unspoken reality that speakers can’t actually say anything they want in hyde park, in the same way that “freedom of speech” isn’t an absolute freedom neither in the UK nor here in the US. However what can legally be defined as terrorism or hate speech is broader in the UK…. So no, you cant stand on your soap box and declare that you wish to KILL THE QUEEN or that @#$%! or *$#@#$ or say anything someone can complain to the police about- because they will arrest you. But hey! Next time you find yourself wandering in Hyde Park walk up to the northeast corner and stand where Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell, and William Morris have stood. Oh and B.Y.O.S.B.