THE 2011 -12 TERM – CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS LEADS THE COURT
There can be little doubt that the ruling on Obamacare was the decision that was most eagerly awaited from the Court in this term, indeed many regard NFIB v Sebelius as a landmark ruling and one which define the Roberts Court. It is therefore worthy of detailed analysis. Several key points might be made in this regard.
· The voting on the issue of the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was surprising in that it was expected that it would Justice Kennedy who would provide the swing vote on the issue. It was anticipated that the usual conservative bloc of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito would face the liberal bloc of Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, with Kennedy providing the pivotal vote. The fact that it was Roberts and not Kennedy that joined with the Liberals was therefore a great surprise.
· Roberts did not sanction the act under the interstate commerce clause as the others did but under the right of Congress to levy taxes.
· This action has meant that the Court has avoided being drawn into the political arena as it was with rulings such as Bush v Gore. It was an example of judicial restraint. In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts stated “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”
· The ruling has helped the Obama presidency.
· In doing say Roberts has helped ensure that the respect for the Court is retained. This is a key determinant of its legitimacy, authority and power.read more...»
Discuss the view that the Roberts Court is a conservative court
The landmark ruling of NFIB v Sebelius in 2012 which sanctioned Obamacare provides a clear illustration of the jurisprudence of the Roberts Court as it ruled contrary to public expectation in a liberal manner. However, others would suggest that this is the exception rather than the rule.
The Roberts Court may be regarded as conservative due to the composition of the court and the impact of recent appointments. Following the resignation of Justice O’Connor, President GW Bush had the opportunity to replace a centrist swing voter with a conservative. Justice Alito. This bolstered the conservative wing of the court. Justices Scalia and Thomas were already in place after their appointments by Presidents Reagan and GH Bush respectively. The bush appointments of Roberts and Alito, with Justice Kennedy who supports the conservative side 60-70% of the time has meant that the Court has a conservative majority which can outvote the liberal bloc of Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor. Obama’s appointments have had little impact. Sotomayor and Kagan replaced two liberals (Souter and Stevens respectively) unlike the Alito appointment.read more...»
Discuss the view that a bill of rights alone does not provide an adequate protection of rights.
The continued failure of the UK government to depart the Muslim cleric Abu Qatada would suggest that bills of rights can go a significant way to ensuring that rights are protected. However, the fact that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has suggested that the UK may opt out or derogate from the ECHR would seem to indicate that rights need more that a written statement that rights exist.
The role of the legislature can prove critical in the defence of rights and a much needed part of the protection of rights equation. Without legislative support, a bill of rights will not provide an adequate protection of rights and liberties. The point is that Parliament could, via the mechanism of parliamentary sovereignty, ban any “freedom” they want. Two measures presently going through Parliament clearly illustrate that the ECHR does not provide an adequate protection of rights. The Justice and Security Bill can result in secret trials, the “snooper’s charter” (Communications Data bill) threatens the right to privacy.
Developments since 9/11 clearly illustrate the fragility of rights in the USA and suggest that they are not adequately protected. Most recently, the National Defense Authorization Act 2012, paved the way for indefinite detention of US citizens without trial due to alleged association with terrorist groups. There are even first amendment free speech concerns relating to journalists’ ability to criticise the government owing to the vagueness of the act. This concern was the basis for the Supreme Challenge in Hedges v Obama which decided in favour of the government in 2013.read more...»
Discuss the view that rights are not adequately protected in the USA today.
In the aftermath of the bombs at the Boston marathon, there is a possibility that there could be a knee jerk reaction from the authorities which could see national security concerns override individual rights. It should be recognised however that the USA has a well-established rights culture which would suggest this will not be the case.read more...»
The continuation of the usurpation of rights due to the “War on Terror”
Despite the regime change at home with the election of President Obama in 2008, there has been scant sign of any relaxation of the government controls designed to improve national security. Indeed many would argue that they continue to be undermined by:
- Secret surveillance of US citizens has been increased by the National Security Agency.
- More government documents have been classified. In 2011 these amounted to 92m compared to 76m in 2010.
- Whistle-blowers have faced a government crackdown with increased use of the obscure Espionage Act which dates from World War I.
- Congress sanctioned an extension of phone tapping without a warrant until 2017.
- Prosecutions by military tribunals rather than civilian courts.
- The continuation use of renditions by the CIA and the failure to close Guantánamo Bay detention centre which it is argued amounts to “the fundamental civil liberties issue of our time.”
- An expanded definition of a terrorist without recourse to the legal process (National Defense Authorization Act 2012).
The detention of suspected terrorists at Guatánamo Bay (GITMO) and developments since 9/11such as the Patriot Act, provide an interesting case study of the how rights may be subject to abuse and of the roles played by various political institutions.
With regard to the rights that are “in play” with regard to the detention of these prisoners, these include:
- Habeas corpus rights
- The right to a fair trial
- The right to a lawyer
- Freedom from torture
Under the terms of the US Constitution, the 6th, 7th and 8th amendments would seem to have been disregarded.
In order to aid analysis of the roles played by the three branches of government, the following sections look at each branch in turn.read more...»
Another massacre in a school and a revival of calls for gun control might have suggested that this was the moment when the powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, might finally have to face some sort of defeat in its attempts to prevent any restrictions to the second amendment. It is probably too early to tell whether or not this is the case but this event does help shed more light on:
1. The factors that can contribute to pressure group success
2. The role of pressure groups in a democracy
3. The nature of US government and politicsread more...»
Abe Fortas once remarked:
With regard to the cabinet as an institution, as differentiated from the individuals who compose it, it is a joke. As a collegium, it does not exist. Its members, serving as a cabinet, neither advise the president nor engage in any meaningful consideration of serious problems or issues.”
This would seem to confirm the view that the USA operates with a singular executive as opposed to the plural executive used in the UK. It was consequently something of a surprise to see a range of cabinet secretaries appear on various TV programmes in a concerted effort to rage against the impact of the automatic cuts in government spending that will result as a result of the president and the Congress failing to come to a compromise agreement over the federal budget deficit.read more...»
THE SECOND TERM OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
The appointment of the cabinet can sometimes help illustrate the uses of the cabinet. It was President Clinton who said that he wanted a cabinet that “looked like America”. The consequential selection of women and people from ethnic minorities meant that the cabinet might help broaden the electoral appeal and support for the administration.
This factor has been less to the fore with the appointments to Obama’s second term team but the appointments still provide insight into how the administration might function.read more...»
The start of the Obama second term posed some interesting questions with regard to the policy direction of government and the style that President Obama may adopt in order to push through this agenda. There are several key developments which give us some insight into these issues.read more...»
Is the Republican Party a party of "grumpy old men"? Why does the GOP no longer seem to connect with younger Americans - is it because they don't understand and connect with voter views on social issues?
The Republican Party is working through a series of internal reviews which seek to identify the issues and problems facing the GOP.
This brief 4 minute studio discussion by the Wall Street Journal experts examines the key issues:read more...»
You've had results day from January. You should by now know how many points you are going to need to get the grades you want to move on from College or Sixth Form. However this last push doesn't need to be you on your own! I've complied a list of websites and sources you may want to take a look at, as well as some tricks that you can do to not only help you live the subject but also help you achieve the grades you need and deserve. This is a golden opportunity in which you can evaluate what went wrong last time or what you can do better and do it!read more...»
Business Studies can have the Biz Quiz, so here comes the Politics Quiz, a weekly round up of news and interesting political stories in the form of 10 questions! Helping you to live the Subject!
President Barack Obama's second Inauguration Address presented as a word cloud.
Kevin Bloor explains the recurring debate within American politics about the power of the President; of which there are two contrasting schools of thought.
One theory claims that the President has exceeded his constitutional powers. As such, he acts in a manner comparable to an imperial monarch. The second is that the Head of State is greatly curtailed in his actions by constitutional and political considerations. This article examines the imperial thesis in the field of foreign policy to the 44th President, Barack Obama.read more...»
As Kevin Bloor explains, once every four years, the American people elect their Head of State. Held at fixed intervals even during war-time, it is a practice which dates back over two centuries. The process may seem a little complex for students more familiar with British politics, particularly when they are first introduced to it. Now seems as opportune a moment as ever to consider the Electoral College, staggered elections and most importantly what the results of November 2012 mean for politics in America.read more...»
In this article, in conjunction with the one in a recent edition of FPTP, Mike Simpson seeks to question some of the traditional views of the role of pressure groups in light of the most recent developments. This time Mike's focus is on the USA.
As Nick Graham reports, a subtle but perceptible shift in the United States’ political orientation took place in November measurable by the success of several ballot proposals from states as far apart as Maine and Colorado. Here and in Washington, voters approved constitutional amendments for the legalisation of recreational marijuana for the first time in the country’s history.read more...»
In the flurry of excitement around the re-election of Barack Obama many of you may have not noticed that many States in the US also voted on a raft of initiatives that were put before the electorates of these States.read more...»
I'm grateful to Ben Fuller for spotting this great little video clip on the basics of the US Constitution. Nice!read more...»
With the first politics lessons of the academic year just days away, how nice of the Republicans to hold their convention just before and thus give us plenty of introductory ammunition. Even better, the most talked about speech is not one by some boring presidential or vice-presidential nominee, but none other than movie icon Clint Eastwood talking to a chair. Eastwood’s extraordinary speech has generated a great deal of twitter and internet chatter – largely negative – and even inspired an “Eastwooding” meme whereby twitter users post pictures of themselves interviewing – yes, empty chairs. More relevantly, the Romney and Ryan speeches have now been comprehensively analysed by supporters and critics alike.read more...»
Lots of coverage recently following the selection by Mitt Romney of Paul Ryan to be his running mate in the 2012 Presidential Election. Here are some links to useful profiles of Paul Ryan which help provide an overview of his views and the effect his selection might have for the Romney/Ryan ticket.read more...»
The RealClearPolitics poll tracker is renowned as a superb source of up-to-date polling for US Presidential elections and 2012 should be no different. Embedded in this blog is the latest polling data which will update as new polls are published.
A useful video here from the FT provides an insight into how well organised and active the Obama 2012 campaign is. As the Republican primary season drags on, the Obama re-election campaign has fired up its engines. Ed Luce from the FT takes us inside the Chicago headquarters and speaks with Obama spokesman Ben LaBoltread more...»
It’s been a breathless few days for devotees of the ‘Special Relationship’. The Sunday Times’ perceptive columnist Andrew Sullivan describes its warm dynamics in his column today (behind the paywall here.) Who can doubt that, once again, the US president and the British prime minister get along famously. And it can’t have hurt that David Cameron’s visit came just after a distinctly less comfortable summit with the distinctly more prickly Israeli prime minister. You couldn’t really see Obama and Netanyahu heading over to a college basketball game to discuss the pros and cons of bombing Iran after all. But as David Cameron returns to the realities of domestic politics, having effectively endorsed Mr. Obama and heard giddy words of political love in return, he may want to cast an eye over the fate of previous British prime ministers who thought they, too, had a special relationship.read more...»
There is no “power to persuade” for a US president. That is the conclusion in Ezra Klein’s fascinating recent New Yorker article, drawing heavily upon data-heavy research by George Edwards of Texas A and M University.read more...»
With the GOP contest dangerously close to descending into what can only be desribed as a slanging match - e.g. see this story from the CNN website if you have not being watching the goings on closely - I have taken the opportunity to fully update my arguments for and against the primaries process.
It is important to note that these points are predicated on considerations of both their existence compared to a process of party elder selection, and ways in which the system of primaries per se could be subject to improvement.
With that caveat emptor aside, here is my updated version…read more...»
I’ve come across a great article for students and teachers on the spiralling cost of US elections.
It covers most of the territory that I teach on the topic when outlining the case to suggest that while the race for the presidency is expensive, we have to place this in context: the USA is large country, the contest lasts many months, as a proportion of the GDP of the world’s richest country the cost is minimal, Americans spend as much in an annual cycle on any number of things (or far more in some case, e.g. it is estimated that the US population spends over $100b every year on fast food!), the greenback doesn’t always rule - i.e. the candidate who spends the most doesn’t always win.
Politics students may not always be avid readers of the Economist so a heads up on a feature in this week’s edition that may be of interest:
“WILL the next presidential election see Barack Obama return triumphantly to the White House for a second term as president of the world’s biggest economy? Or will a sluggish economic recovery, which has left over 14m Americans out of work, doom him to defeat in November 2012?
Models of the way economic factors affect presidential elections already exist. The best known was developed in the late 1970s by Ray Fair, an economist at Yale, who used macroeconomic indicators (such as inflation and the growth rate of income per person) to predict the vote share of the two main parties in subsequent elections. Mr Fair most recently updated his estimates at the end of July, when his model predicted a victory for Mr Obama in 2012 with 53.4% of the vote. In releasing his predictions, however, he noted that “a strong rebound results in a fairly solid Obama victory…and a double-dip recession…results in a fairly solid Republican victory.” Democratic hearts will have skipped a beat or two on hearing Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, say on October 4th that the recovery was “close to faltering”.
But is it right to focus exclusively on macroeconomic indicators?”
Interested? Read more here.
With all that’s going on at the minute, I hope these clips brings some light relief…read more...»
This is not intended to be an exhaustive journey through Barack Obama’s career, but instead to end the series on Politics via YouTube by bringing blog readers access to a step by step tour of some key points in the story of an individual with the kind of charisma and oratorical skill that comes around perhaps only once in several generations.
I have tried wherever possible to link to versions with the best combination of audio visual quality.
Put some time aside, and enjoy…read more...»