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Posts Tagged ‘Parish Episcopal School’

Welcome!

Welcome to our blog!

This is a class blog authored by student contributors and curated by their teacher, Dave Ostroff.

The posts on this blog are part of an ongoing assignment in our Government and Economics course at Parish Episcopal School (Dallas, TX). The major goal of our course is to prepare students for responsible citizenship in the 21st century. Students post reflection pieces on a rotating basis. We invite you to return often and read what we write!

Please read the specifics of our class blog assignment here.

View our class blogging and commenting guidelines here.

Special thanks to Mike Gwaltney and his AP US Government and Politics students for providing the inspiration for this project!

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How Many Factions?!?

February 22, 2013 Leave a comment

The foundation and evolution of our country has always fascinated me, especially the ongoing written argument between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.   In the late 1780’s, the framework for American government was like a river in turmoil.

Source: Media.npr

Source: Media.npr

The founding fathers had already discussed different forms of government and had established the Articles of the Confederation.  And it was a complete failure, causing America to descend into discord.  One group, the Federalists, favored dumping the Articles and replacing it with the Constitution, proposing that it “become the law of the land.” (Shea 58)  To accomplish this, “9 out of the 13 states” would have to ratify the new Constitution.   And the essay war began.  An opposing group, Anti-Federalists, didn’t want the constitution to be passed and began trying to convince the people not to ratify.  So James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Fay, leading members of the Federalist Party, wrote a series of essays called the Federalist Papers to persuade people to agree to change the constitution.  They were published in newspapers all over the country, especially where anti-federalist views were majority.  One specific essay, Federalist #10, interests me most with its discussion of factions.  To me, factions can be the breaking or building points of a government.  Also, when I compare Madison’s opinion of government and America’s present day form of government, there are some very distinct differences.

First, a definition for factions must be understood.  Dictionary.com defines the word faction as a “group or clique within a larger group, party, government, or organization.” Madison defines faction as a majority or a minority united by some common impulse of passion or interest that aggregates the community.   In Madison’s eyes, faction has a relatively negative connotation.  So why is a faction so negative?  Factions can motivate people to cause riots, violent reactions, and dangers to all parties.  But factions are also a key part to society.

How can Madison say that something he thinks is negative is actually important to society?  Well, without factions, a government would become a dictatorship, with one party ruling all of society.  So multiple factions (more than two) keep each other in check and prevent a one party majority rule.

Madison goes on further to explain how these factions correlate and build a republic.  A republic properly represents the people by having different parties with different prospects.  So almost all points of view are represented.  Even if the parties don’t necessarily get along, the republican form of government units all theses parties forming one united country. The only way factions can become positive and cure the mischiefs associated with factions is to have multiple of them.  It seems twisted; that to get ride of all the negative aspects of a thing, we want more of them.  But the truth is they represent a wider sphere of the country and the opinions of  entire population.

The most interesting thing though, is that American government doesn’t follow these guidelines.  Of course we still follow the constitution, but we have slipped into lazy pattern.  We only have ‘three’ parties, if we can even call it that.  Republican.  Democratic.  And Independent.  But the republican and democratic parties are the reigning champions.  So relatively, only two parties or factions exist.  This goes against everything the founding fathers wanted.

178913277_partisan_boxing_cartoon_xlarge

Source: Sodahead

Every year, politicians spend countless hours in a deadlock against one another.  They waste so much time opposing one another that nothing gets done.  For example, if the Senate is majority democratic, it is almost guaranteed that the House of Representatives will be majority republican.   There is so much discourse caused by having only two factions.  On top of that, with only two parties, the public isn’t properly represented.

So what should we do?  America, the land of the free, actually isn’t what the founding fathers dreamed it would be. What do you think?

Congressional Grappling- Gridlock Surrounding Immigration Reform

February 22, 2013 1 comment

Immigration reform in the United States is quickly coming to a head. As the dust from the Presidential election settles and the nation collectively exhales after our near miss with the fiscal cliff, legislators have refocused on issues that drastically impact constituents of certain key demographics.

The Washington Post explains that the driving factor that has brought the GOP to the negotiating table has been the inability of the party to capture the Latino vote. Politico argues that the concerted interest by the Republicans combined with a push by the Democrats has made reform of American Immigration policy a top legislative priority on capitol hill this year. Minorities have successfully utilized the voting pathway of political action to force some measured level of political reform.

That theme of that reform has boiled down to one word: compromise.

Schumer, key Democratic player in 'Gang of 8'

Schumer (D-NY), key player in ‘Gang of 8’ (CNN)

Individuals on both sides of the aisle have realized that passing any comprehensive immigration reform package will require bipartisan support. CNN argues that  the realization of a need for bipartisan cooperation (specifically by key congressional powers such as Democratic Senator Schumer) has given way to the formation of what political pundits are calling the ‘gang of 8.’ The Washington post explains that the committee, consisting of 8 key senators (4 Democrats and 4 Republicans) have hammered out a package (of which a preliminary transcript is posted here) that rests on a couple of key planks. The first is increased border control, a non-negotiable issue for members of the GOP. The second is slightly more unconventional. In an effort to reach a true compromise, GOP members allowed for the inclusion of a path to citizenship in their reform package. The path, though long and arduous (it contains a number of key steps, the most notable of which is a requirement to pay fines and back taxes), is a key plank of the package that gives the Democratic senators on the committee something to back.

In addition to those key overarching planks, the National Review explains that the plan also demonstrates a concerted effort to improve the system of legal immigration to attract high skilled workers as well to improve employment verification and secure working rights for potential immigrants and existing illegal aliens already in the nation.

The president, in an effort to assume the role of chief legislator, has waded in and out of the immigration debate. The Washington Post explains that he most recently proposed a solution in Las Vegas as he “put the weight of his administration behind efforts to pass legislation” on Immigration Reform. Although his plan has been deemed unfeasible by Rubio (a key republican senator who is part of the ‘gang of 8’) he has brought immigration reform to the forefront. The National Journal explains that Obama’s proposal was repeatedly been blasted as “dead on arrival,” but it sends a clear message: that immigration reform will become (and already is) a key legislative issue in the foreseeable future.

Obama lays out his plan in Vegas (Wash Post)

Obama lays out his plan in Vegas (Wash Post)

Ultimately, I am of the opinion that we will soon see some sort of deal on the issue of illegal immigration. With 11 million undocumented individuals already in our country’s borders and the immense political might of the Latino community, the stakes are simply too high for the issue to remain unresolved. Though the two groups may seem resolute, with the democrats refusing to budge on a path to citizenship and the republicans intent on blocking that very path without significant border control, progress on immigration reform is inevitable. The issue is simply far too important economically, socially, and politically for gridlock to continue.

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