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The Dangers of Breaking From Our Constitution

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
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April 15, 2019 9:00 am

The Dangers of Breaking From Our Constitution

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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April 15, 2019 9:00 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, NC Family Communications Director Traci DeVette Griggs sits down with Dr. Adam Carrington, assistant professor of politics at Hillsdale College’s Graduate School of Statesmanship. Dr. Carrington unpacks the recent trend of states passing legislation to do away with the Electoral College, and the repercussions of state lawmakers, as well as presidential candidates, desiring to break from tradition. Carrington also addresses other proposed changes to our Constitution, including altering both the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices and the amount of time lawmakers can debate about judicial nominees.

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Debate is meant to deliberate and find one choice really, what is being used for now is obstruction and to stop the process. This is family policy numbers. A weekly radio show and podcast from the family designed to better inform listeners about the critical issues of the day and encourage you to be voices of persuasion for family values in your community. Thank you for joining us today for family policy matters I'm tracing to that Greg's director of education's here in NC family and sitting in today for John Rustin.

It seems fewer and fewer Americans understand and appreciate our very unique system of government, America's founding fathers designed very specific guideposts for that system and protected them by placing them in the U.S. Constitution, but there appears to be a growing ignorance about that design even among our political leaders and some presidential candidates will Dr. Adam Carrington is here to talk to us about this today. He is assistant professor of politics at Hillsdale College graduate school of statesmanship.

Dr. Carrington welcome to family policy matters great to be here forever. Let's start with the topic that seems to be popping up a lot lately. There is somewhat of a groundswell among some to do away with the electoral college before we discussed whether or not that's a good thing. It might be very helpful if you would give us a quick history lesson on the electoral college.

What is it, how does it work in light of the founding fathers think it was so important as to include it in our Constitution wrote up a great start and what it is simply the way we choose the president of the United States and how it is that each state in the United States is given electoral votes which are equal to how many congressmen at house of Euro 14 house numbers two senators you have 16 electoral votes. Are we now have 538 of those total distributed through the United States and the District of Columbia. Each state then selects electors who meet together to choose the president the same of the number of electoral votes they have and whoever. Whatever. Canada gets a majority of those electoral votes across the country wins the presidency. That's why people always talking about 270 now that's 50% +1 of all of the electoral votes across all the states in the country and why was it included, why didn't we do another system. In some ways it was a compromise at the Constitutional convention between legislative selection having Congress select the president and popular vote having the people do it as a whole and what was seen as was the best of both of those and avoiding the worst of both of those that it would include white popular election. The consent of the people and and white Congress a special body selected by the people with the character or knowledge to make an informed decision about why they thought it was so important to pick the chief executive of the United States. For those reasons people complain that the electoral college undermines the idea of one person one vote meaning really does do that. Doesn't it it does in the strict sense, but I think we were going to take the wisdom of the founders at as a whole will see many other structures in the Constitution do that to the Senate lifetime appointment by judges, but the founders thought that there was more to a good and just regime than one person one vote that they wanted consent of the governed, but they wanted consent for the purpose of protecting everyone's equal natural rights and they understood that all human beings are fallible and a majority can be tyrannical and bad just like one or few people can be sure they wanted to do was respect consent of the governed, but channeled that decision so that it was reasonable and channel it in such a way so that when the people choose their choosing the best way possible. Just like we often constrain the way we choose to make our chart choices better. That's what they tried to do with the system because it wasn't just what choice we made it how we made that choice that mattered.

Thanks, interestingly, about a dozen states have passed laws that would give their electoral college votes to which ever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote. So, that's regardless of how they are particular state voted. Now those laws can't go into effect unless enough states pass similar laws but give us some perspective on just how dramatic a change that would be for American elections. I think it would change fundamentally how we look at elections for president and how states or campaigns look at them as well. Other be a massive change person campaigning there be less of a focus on states much more of a focus on population centers or media markets getting out your kind of vote or wherever they are and to some degree, ignoring voters that are in your camp and others, and more. Therefore focus on those questions. I think from other people looking at these elections, not just the campaigners.

There would be the elimination of something we spend so much time looking at, which are state polls, they would have regional poles, but I think the bigger focus would be on where are the big population centers going. What are they doing it would nationalize the campaign and eliminate the state centric focus of it in a way that we've never seen given the electoral college is focus on the states would you consider this to be a good change for bad change. I think that there are a lot of drawbacks to it because I think that the nature of a more state centric campaign actually forces candidates much more to appeal to broader arrays of voters now people complain that the only campaign in swing states. For those swing states will force them to appeal to voters within those states and other places that are less like them that I think they would if they had to just run up vote totals nationally. I think it creates a kind of moderating influence that makes the different candidates less partisan and more conducive to the public good and we often say were too partisan.

Now I think it would be much worse if we had just a pure national popular vote. Listening to policy matters radio show and cast from the same family you can sign up to receive and to listen to the show online resources persuasion anyone to our website family watching switch gears and talk a little bit about our court from your understanding of history do you feel like it is getting tougher for our judicial nominees these days are they being more unfairly scrutinized her attack today than they were in previous years. I think two things that happened the resultant saying yes to that one. I think the importance of the courts has skyrocketed as other branches such as Congress have abdicated a lot of power.

Has there been more battles between the executive and the judiciary.

I think that has caused the courts to be seen as much more important than they were in the past. The other is that so much of our lives are now recorded and able to be scrutinized much less of our lives are secret and much less a public person's lives are secret. When you put those two together. I think yes judges today and potential Supreme Court justices are under much more scrutiny than than in the past some adjoining leader Mitch McConnell has decided to employ the nuclear option. He says to dramatically reduce the amount of debate time for many judicial nominees. So do you feel this would damage the integrity of this process. What effect would have.

I think of it was gone out of any other context, it would be. The Senate should be a place where there should be extra protections for debate, but it doesn't come without a context I think that context really shows that it's more of a result of the damage process, not a damaging of the process debate is meant to deliberate and refine one's choice really what it's being used for now is obstruction and to stop the process and I think if we could restore the original purpose of having unlimited debate which is to have good deliberation and a good process for making choices for judges, then we shouldn't have those limits. But as long as it's going to be used by really both sides when they're in the minority really to obstruct. I think that steps need to be taken to make sure that the debate has an endpoint that the purpose of the real debate is fulfilled, which is to choose in the end you mentioned that we put a lot more emphasis on our Supreme Court justices right now and some have suggested that the next president of the United States might move to increase the number of justices on the US Supreme Court. Many people may not realize that it's that number is not set in stone. So why do we have nine justices really tradition. We originally only had six and we've had nine since 1869 it changed a lot between the founding in 1869, and I think your couple reasons. With That one is the uneven number allows every case to have a definitive decision you don't have ties. I think that number was seen as reasonable but nine justices is a good amount to divide up the workload of opinion writing and research. Also that it wasn't so big that the judges couldn't deliberate and discuss together how they interpret the law, but I think also it's where it is now because more and more people came to see changing the court regularly as to nakedly partisan for a court to court you want to be above partisanship and apply the law in a neutral way, regardless of who the litigants are regardless of what the judges opinions are, the more you move the numbers of the cord around the more that institution is seen as something much more nakedly political than the Constitution imaginatively so concerned you have that some of the brightest shining stars in politics seem to have very little understanding of the Constitution and a basic economics, international relations, and yet have a huge following. Is this a concern to you. Going forward in politics in our nation, certainly, and that such a job. Hopefully teach people that are better informed on this, but it's the idea that if we believe that this document is on one hand, our governing document and on the second that it's a wise governing document then for people who are supposed to be elected under it and supposed to follow it to not do so is doubly bad. It's bad because it means we are not really following the rule of law, of our supreme law of the land and it also means there were not following the wisest path that the founder set out in following some lesser path and I think that it shows a kind of illiteracy not just among those who are being elected, but sadly among a number of people that are electing that right standards of the justice and process the Constitution sets up is not front and center and not something that's disqualifying when our elected officials show ignorance of those of us who are listening and you may think to themselves either.

I've forgotten a lot of things or I was never taught very well. All these principles from our Constitution and by our founding fathers. What kind of suggestions would you have for people listening to my want to at whatever age they are learning something so that they can go forward with this wisdom that you that you mentioned I would make a couple suggestions. One is just read the Constitution for yourself and it was written as a document of the people by the people for the people and so don't be intimidated by it.

You can understand it as an American citizen. Second, I would point to actually there's lots of resources online for reading what the founders thought read something like the Federalist papers. They were written to defend the Constitution.

They were written as all bids for newspapers, so there again meant for the people to understand and discuss and then third point to where I work Hillsdale College. We have a array of online courses that are free where our goal is civic education, including the U.S. Constitution course where we strive to make available ways that citizens can educate themselves so I would say every American should take this very seriously. Whatever else there career path they are a citizen all the time and that I think there are these resources out there that would allow us to exercise our sovereignty as the sovereign people in a much more full and informed way excellent and I would highly recommend your Constitution 101 online course. That's a very good resource. I know from personal experience, Dr. Carrington, thank you so much for being with us on family policy matters today and for all that you do to educate future generations of American citizens to know and understand the uniqueness of this great country. Thank you. Humbling to do it. Honor and pleasure to you have been listening to family policy, a weekly radio show and Comcast from the family to listen to the show online for more resources that will help you the voice of persuasion in your community. Go to our website and see family. A large eat and less on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter


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