Category Archives: 2020

hamilton jefferson election 1800

Republicans Could Learn from Alexander Hamilton

The election of 1800 pushed the young American republic to the brink of a constitutional crisis.  Just the fourth election, and the first truly competitive one, the Federalist and Republican parties — though they would bristle at being labelled parties — organized candidate tickets, John Adams and Charles Pinckney and Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, respectively.

This innovation, a devolution into faction which so frightened the Founders, threatened the Electoral College because prior to the 12th Amendment, Electors had no way of differentiating between the president and vice-president.  Designed without parties in mind, each elector cast two votes and the top two electoral vote getters receiving at least a majority (in 1800, 70 votes) would become president and vice-president.

However, with a party ticket and partisan electors choosing from preferential candidates rather than dispassionately selecting a president from the population, electors had to coordinate votes to ensure that they didn’t each cast their ballots for the president and vice-presidential hopeful; one elector had to cast one vote for a third candidate lest the presidential and vice-presidential designee end up with the same number of electoral votes.

Failing to do so would throw the election to the House of Representatives.



A Republican Coordination Failure

Federalists managed this feat, no easy task given difficultly of coordination in a nation that moved at the speed of horses, with one elector giving a vote to John Jay, leaving John Adams with 65 electoral votes and Charles Pinckney with 64.  Republicans failed to execute their similar plan.  Their electors cast 73 electoral votes for both Jefferson and Burr and the tied election went to the Federalist-controlled House of Representatives, which threatened to overturn the election, nullify results, or even pass installation to install an interim chief magistrate.

In the House, state delegations each cast one vote for president with a majority (9) needed for victory.  While Federalists dominated the chamber — they lost their majority in 1800, but the new Congress would not be seated until March — they only controlled eight delegations, short of a majority.  Republicans controlled seven states and one, Vermont, had a split delegation.

All knew that Republicans picked Thomas Jefferson as their presidential nominee, but that did not bind Federalists, most of whom despised the former vice-president.  They wanted to deny him the presidency and so a number of them voted for Burr: Six Federalist delegations initially voted for Burr, all seven Republican delegations as well as Federalist Georgia voted for Jefferson.  Vermont, split, cast a blank ballot.  Maryland had five Federalists and three Republicans in its delegation — four Federalists voted for Burr while one voted for Jefferson along with the Republicans, leading to a blank ballot.  No president had been decided.

These divisions — six states for Burr, eight for Jefferson, two blank — held for 35 ballots.



Hamilton’s History with Jefferson

Throughout the affair, Alexander Hamilton urged his Federalist colleagues to vote for Thomas Jefferson, his longtime nemesis, because he trusted Jefferson’s character and virtue whereas he found Burr unscrupulous and too self-serving.  A perfect example of Burr’s self-serving character is his unwillingness to stand down after the election when to the House, despite knowing his designation as vice-president.

It’s hard to overstate the depths of the animosity that flowed between Hamilton and Jefferson.  Hamilton considered Jefferson’s political views as “tinctured with fanaticism,” and, as a person, “a contemptible hypocrite.”  During the 1796 election, Hamilton wrote a series of some 25 essays under the pseudonym Phocion attacking Jefferson.  The most notable of the works, all published in the Gazette, accused Jefferson of having an affair with one of his female slaves.

For his part, Thomas Jefferson lambasted Hamilton and funded James Callender, a sensationalist Republican journalist who frequented the muck to attack Federalists, primarily Hamilton.  Callender helped destroy Hamilton’s career and public reputation through false accusations of corruption and the popularization of Hamilton’s affair with Jane Reynolds.



The Callender Affair

In 1792, information came to light that made then-senator (and future president) James Monroe believe Hamilton used his position as Secretary of the Treasury to enrich himself through speculation.  Such accusations naturally angered Hamilton, who prided himself on virtuous leadership that sacrificed his own interests for those of the country.  That disinterested leadership defined his views of government and explains his eventual support of Jefferson over Burr in the 1800 election.

When Monroe and other Republicans confronted Hamilton, they learned Hamilton dallied with Reynolds, but did not act corruptly or abuse his powers.  Monroe and his counterparts understood the distinction between public and private life, realizing that indiscretions in marriage did not equate to corrupt or insidious public action.  The investigation ended without leaks.

Some four years later, Callender uncovered the papers related to the Hamilton investigation, perhaps leaked to him by Jefferson, though more likely released by former House clerk John Beckley, a Jefferson ally.  He published the documents and further editorialized the affair, lambasting Hamilton’s moral standing and falsely accusing him of corruption.

Hamilton responded in a lengthy pamphlet that he assumed would end the confrontation and restore his stature — after all, the same defense and revelation of facts had ended Monroe’s intrigue.  Unfortunately, the pamphlet, in which Hamilton admitted the sordid details of his affair but denied all allegations of corruption, reached a mass audience and that audience assumed Hamilton’s moral indiscretions exposed a rotten character.  Callender’s efforts, funded by Jefferson, thoroughly disgraced Hamilton.



Differences Aside

And yet, when it came to the tied 1800 election, Hamilton put his long-standing rivalry and antipathy towards Jefferson behind him and fervently wrote Federalist congressman urging them to make Jefferson, not Burr, president.

Hamilton worried that the country would suffer, that the government would be subverted or otherwise harmed, by “an unprincipled man [who] would exploit public passion.”  He warned of a latter-day Catiline, the Roman senator who tried a populist uprising against the Republic.  Burr’s populism — he was the first (vice) presidential candidate to canvass for office and helped establish the first political machine in New York — and ambition made him such a man.

Federalists believed that Burr, who held few core principles and profited from the Hamiltonian economic system, would maintain the Federalist program.  But Hamilton, who did so much to consolidate government and design the Federalist programs, willingly sacrificed their rollback for character in the presidency.  “Great Ambition unchecked by principle…is an unruly Tyrant,” he wrote.

“As to Burr there is nothing in his favour. His private character is not defended by his most partial friends. He is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the plunder of his country. His public principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandisement per fas et nefas. If he can, he will certainly disturb our institutions to secure to himself permanent power and with it wealth.”



The Lesser of Two Evils

Jefferson, on the other hand, had greater ability than Burr and was not “zealot enough to do anything in pursuance of his principles which will contravene his popularity, or his interest. He is as likely as any man I know to temporize — to calculate what will be likely to promote his own reputation and advantage; and the probable result of such a temper is the preservation of systems, though originally opposed, which being once established, could not be overturned without danger to the person who did it. . . . Add to this that there is no fair reason to suppose him capable of being corrupted, which is a security that he will not go beyond certain limits.”

“He is of a temper to undertake the most hazardous enterprises because he is sanguine enough to think nothing impracticable, and of an ambition which will be content with nothing less than permanent power in his own hands.  The maintenance of the existing institutions will not suit him, because under them his power will be too narrow & too precarious; yet the innovations he may attempt will not offer the substitute of a system durable & safe, calculated to give lasting prosperity, & to unite liberty with strength. It will be the system of the day, sufficient to serve his own turn, & not looking beyond himself.”

“The truth,” Hamilton wrote, “is that under forms of Government like ours, too much is practicable to men who will without scruple avail themselves of the bad passions of human nature.”

Hamilton put his hatred towards Jefferson and concerns over the longevity of his system to support a candidate with character fit to be president, eschewing his party in the process.  He recognized the dangers posed by a self-serving individual without ideology of which to speak and no clear attachment to the constitutional system.



How Republicans Can Learn from Hamilton

Republicans should learn from that.  Donald Trump has no interest in protecting the Constitution — in fact, his actions as president have undermined it through violating the foreign emoluments clause, the domestic emoluments clause, undermining the separation of powers, and trying to erode the First Amendment’s protections of free speech and press.

Obviously, Trump is not fit for office.  He promotes falsehoods, lies to the American people, and blunders about without a clear understanding of policy, domestic and foreign.  About 1/3 of his presidency is spent on properties he owns, mingling with donors and lobbyists who pay companies in which he maintains a financial stake hundreds of thousands a year simply to have access to the president.  The Founders never wanted such a businessman to be president because that individual would have innumerable conflicts of interest and act on in a self-serving manner; the fears Hamilton had of Burr come true in Trump.

Trump’s authoritarian minded.  He has offered a tacit endorsement of political violence and degraded political discourse through slander, libel, and countless lies told about the opposition.

Our institutions do constrain him, and that’s a testament to the efforts of Hamilton and other Founding Fathers to create precedents of separated power and checks and balances, not risking the early republic for personal or factional interests, but instead recognizing the gravity of their decisions.  Precedents can be overturned and the normalization of an authoritarian president coupled with weak congressional opposition does not bode well for the country going forward.

Hamilton acted for the country, not for himself.  He worked ceaselessly to protect the country from the dangers of ann ambitious and self-serving character.  Republicans need to learn from Hamilton’s actions and recognize that our country would be best served by abandoning Donald Trump.

If Republicans want to be glorified as Hamilton has, if they want to protect the American republic, they would do well to deny Trump the 2020 GOP nomination and, if he claims it, unite behind a Democrat for the sake of our nation.



For more on election of 1800 and the histories of Hamilton and Jefferson, checkout Gordon S. Wood’s “Empire of Liberty.”  Click the image to buy.

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bernie sanders frontrunner

Is Bernie Sanders the 2020 Democratic Front-Runner? Not Yet.

Elizabeth Warren’s presence means there is no early front-runner.

Vox’s highly talented Matt Yglesias wrote a provocative and persuasive piece explaining why he believes Bernie Sanders stands as the Democrats’ 2020 front-runner.  To be sure, Sanders has a lot going for him: The 2016 runner-up has established a national brand with high name ID, rabid supporters willing to donate and volunteer, and a continued foot in the political circuit as he tours the country holding rallies for like-minded politicians and in hopes of advancing his primary legislative goal, universal healthcare.

However, Sanders also suffers from lasting animosity churned up during the 2016 campaign.  A number of Clinton supporters blame Sanders, at least in part, for Donald Trump’s upset victory.  They chastise him for not leaving the primary in the early spring months and not working hard enough to prevent his supporters from either staying at home or casting a third-party ballot on election day.  These critics hold some truth — Sanders should have eased himself from the national stage following Super Tuesday — but other points miss the mark.  Regardless, tensions exist.

But on top of lasting 2016 anger, old-age (he’ll be 78 come 2020), and policy ideas still to the left of many Democrats, Sanders is not the 2020 front-runner for one simple reason: Elizabeth Warren.

Warren running would complicate matters for Sanders

Naturally, we don’t yet know whether Warren will run, but her actions show someone interested in running for president.  She’s become a constant thorn in Trump’s side and has released a book and traveled the country promoting it.  Her standing among Democrats remains quite favorable.  From Warren’s actions stems “nevertheless, she persisted,” a ready-made slogan for Warren allies to promote a nascent candidacy.



Warren endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, but largely remained aloof of the primary.  As such, she earned no hatred or ill-feelings from members of the competing camps.  That would work to Warren’s benefit if Democratic primary voters hope to put 2016 behind them.

Building on that point, Warren could be seen as a compromise candidate.  Warren’s considered more moderate than Bernie Sanders, though her congressional voting record actually places her to the left of the proclaimed democratic socialist.  She appeals to the fervent Sanders supporters; more moderate Democrats would likely prefer her to Sanders and be willing to accept her as an alternate to more establishment Democrats such as Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillibrand.

If Warren runs, she would fracture the Sanders coalition while also putting pressure on moderates.  Her lane would be that of compromise: Peal voters from the middle and wings.  By nature, that would preclude any one candidate from becoming a front-runner as the ideological lanes would become blurred as the moderate, left, and compromise candidates draw similar numbers.  Sanders would be especially hurt as the party’s left-wing does not yet claim a majority of primary voters — unity would be essential to mount a victorious campaign.

Without Warren, Sanders would be the front-runner

Should Warren choose not to run, Sanders would indeed be the front-runner.  His lane would be clear from notable challengers.  The logic also works the other way — if Sanders decide to forego another run, Warren would assume front-runner status, largely by virtue of name ID (Biden would pose another challenge, but his centrism would likely alienate too many voters despite his endearment to the party).



It should be no surprise that two years before the 2020 campaign enters its first leg we have no front-runner.  Nor will we have one until early 2019 when Warren, Sanders, and others decide whether to jump into the race.  Until then, jockeying will continue as party leaders try to establish their brand and win the invisible the primary.

tulsi gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard is a Tyrant Apologist

Tulsi Gabbard Has No Place in Washington

Tulsi Gabbard should face a primary challenge.  She is no liberal, certainly no Democrat, and while she masquerades as a progressive, her record speaks otherwise.  In fact, Gabbard’s actions reveal that she is a renegade with a cause celebrated only by tyrants.

The congresswoman’s secret trip to Syria perfectly exemplifies her foolishness and affability to brutal authoritarianism.  She failed to alert government leaders that she would visit a country with which we do not have diplomatic relations; upon her return she refused to say whether she met with strongman Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (it turns out she did, which, given that her positions are dramatically at odds with U.S. foreign policy, might have run afoul of the Logan Act); now, she won’t disclose who funded the trip, signing and submitting incomplete ethics forms.  Her conclusion from the trip?  The war-criminal should remain in power as only his repressive regime can restore order to a region his undemocratic, illiberal actions helped destabilize in the first place.



Gabbard went to Syria on a “fact-finding” mission.  Why, then, did she allow the trip to be curated entirely by government figures?  Why did she allow to accompany her two of Assad’s henchmen, who hail from a virulently anti-Semitic party with a history of fascism?  After viewing a Syria portrayed solely from the government’s point of view, Gabbard returned with renewed belief in Assad’s beneficence – an American falling victim to Assad’s propaganda (the same propaganda used by dictators throughout the world to portray democratic societies as tyrannical or otherwise flawed and repressive).

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Bashar al-Assad who dropped chemical bombs on his own people.  Yes, it’s the same Assad whose massacre of Aleppo generated thousands of refugees and gave us images of the war-torn city and injured children that tug at one’s heartstrings.  She, like Vladimir Putin (Assad’s ally in Aleppo’s slaughter) and Donald Trump, wants to see the same Assad that brutally cracked down on all dissent, on those aligned – however loosely – with perceived opposition remain at Syria’s helm.



It’s little wonder that Steve Bannon, alleged anti-Semite and former executive at white nationalist site Breitbart, takes a fancy to Gabbard: Like Trump, her foreign policy inherently views Islam as a terrorism problem and her solutions involve maintaining dictatorial regimes.  For her part, Gabbard, the lone House Democrat to vote against a resolution condemning Assad for his crimes, also bucked her party by refusing to sign a letter urging Trump to fire Steve Bannon, a senior adviser who nihilistically views war with China as inevitable and already thinks we’re in a global conflict with Islam.

Gabbard’s populist roots – the aspiring child of demagoguery – find her favor in the White House even while lending legitimacy and support for authoritarian regimes.  What proclaimed progressive can look into the eyes of a refugee and say “I stand with your oppressor?”  Our leaders need to stand up to dictators and urge democracy’s shining light to spread across all corners of the globe (and this does not necessarily entail military force, though presenting that false choice bolsters Gabbard’s weak arguments).  At a time when the White House wants to strengthen tyrants – when far-right European parties a step removed from power wish the same – authoritarian apologists must not walk the halls of Congress.



Hawaiian voters must hold Tulsi Gabbard accountable for her actions and undemocratic (and certainly not progressive) viewpoints.  Someone – a real Democrats who understands the intricacies of the 21st Century economy and who believes that a (small-l) liberal world order in which a society of states exists without the repressive hand of dictators promotes stability and peace – must primary challenge Tulsi Gabbard.

democrats 2020

Democrats 2020: Who Might Run?

For Democrats, 2020 comes with a wealth of options.

With no heir apparent and no clear national leadership, many politicians — and even some political hobbyists — will run for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination.  The list of potential candidates includes a handful of representatives, many senators, a sizable number of current Democratic governors, as well as other (long-standing) party leaders.

Of course, not all will run or catch fire with the primary electorate.  Some may spend years courting Democrats for 2020 aspirations only to see little party and activist support, forcing the potential candidate to abandon his or her plans.  Others may have a bleak outlook, but will run anyway in hopes of getting lucky.

The table below lists potential candidates for Democrats in 2020.  Aspirants are listed by current position (in order of strength); the last column provides a subjective initial standing, to be updated at various points in time.

Democrats 2020 Potential Candidates

RepresentativesSenatorsGovernorsOther Party LeadersPolitical Hobbyists
Seth MoultonElizabeth WarrenJerry BrownJoe BidenMark Cuban
Keith EllisonBernie SandersTerry McAuliffeJason KanderOprah Winfrey
Joaquin CastroCory BookerAndrew CuomoGavin NewsomTom Steyer
Tim RyanKirsten GillibrandJohn HickenlooperMartin O’MalleyHoward Schultz
Tulsi GabbardTim KaineJay InsleeXavier BecerraMark Zuckerberg
Sherrod BrownJohn Bel EdwardsDeval PatrickSheryl Sandberg
Kamala HarrisTom WolfThomas PerezGeorge Clooney
Mark WarnerSteve BullockAntonio VillaraigosaCaroline Kennedy
 Michael BennetDan MalloyJulian CastroJamie Dimon
Amy KlobucharMark DaytonEric Garcetti
Chris MurphyJack MarkellMitch Landrieu
Al FrankenJay Nixon
Brian SchatzAlan Grayson
Chris van Hollen



Top 15

1. Elizabeth Warren

elizabeth warren 2020

Pros: She leads early polls, is viewed quite favorably by Democrats, and has strong name recognition.  Furthermore, she’s a thorn in Trump’s side, ensuring she stays in the national dialogue.

Cons: If she and Bernie Sanders run, the Democratic Party’s left-wing will be divided, perhaps preventing both Warren and Sanders  from seizing the nomination.

2. Bernie Sanders

bernie sanders 2020

 

Pros: Rabid support among his base and a proven ability to raise vast amounts of money.  Sanders has emerged as a leading voice in the party that could help him in the Democrats’ 2020 race.

Cons: Many Clinton supporters partially blame Sanders  for her 2016 loss.  Such lasting animosity could divide the party and lead to a faction bitterly fighting a Sanders candidacy.  He might also be too far to the left of the party to clinch the nomination.

3. Joe Biden

joe biden 2020

 

Pros: Loved by all and has long expressed interest in again running for president.

Cons: He’s old and the Democrats’ 2020 choice might want to contrast with Trump’s age.  Biden has run for president multiple times and has never gained traction.  Might be too moderate for a party quickly moving leftward.



4. Cory Booker

cory booker 2020

 

Pros: Young, energetic, and frequently discussed as a 2020 candidate.  Has strong initial name ID and already has die-hard supporters.

Cons: Already has enemies who view him as too close to large corporations.  Not yet polished on the stump or as a candidate (his first Senate campaign inspired few).

5. Terry McAuliffe

terry mcauliffe 2020

 

Pros: Proven fundraiser, hails from a swing state, and clearly wants it.  Would be a strong candidate from the right wing of the party.

Cons: A close Clinton ally, many view McAuliffe as overly friendly to businesses and all too moderate.

6. Kirsten Gillibrand

kirsten gillibrand 2020

 

Pros: Loved by many, would quickly gain many endorsers from the Senate, and is positioned well as compromise candidate that splits moderate and left-wing wants.

Cons: Not yet nationally known and hasn’t indicated an interest in running.



7. Tim Kaine

tim kaine 2020

 

Pros: Swing-state senator and former governor; nationally known from the 2016 campaign.  A folksy gentleman with an impressive record of public service and someone who could campaign on ending the imperial presidency — an important contrast to Donald Trump’s actions and views of the executive.

Cons: Moderate, an uninspiring campaigner, and doesn’t seem to have a desire to be president.

8. Jerry Brown

jerry brown 2020

 

Pros: Successful governor of the nation’s most populous state.  Track record of getting things done.

Cons: Old, has run for president multiple times and fizzled during each campaign.  Might be considered too centrist/bipartisan.

9. Sherrod Brown

sherrod brown 2020

 

Pros: Young, populist, represents a swing state, is quite liberal.

Cons: Not well known and has a tough 2018 reelection that would hamper his maneuverings in the Democrats’ 2020 “invisible primary.”

10. Kamala Harris

kamala harris 2020

 

Pros: Young, energetic, and already a strong voice in the Senate where she has earned the accolades of many liberals through her tough questioning in Senate hearings.

Cons: Inexperienced — come 2020, she won’t have served a full term in the Senate.



11. Mark Warner

mark warner 2020

 

Pros: Swing-state senators continuously in the news as the ranking member of the Senate Intel Committee.  Wealthy and can raise money.

Cons: Potentially too moderate; couldn’t rally establishment support in the early days of the 2008 invisible primary.  Might instead strive for Senate leadership.

12. Seth Moulton

seth moulton 2020

 

Pros: Youthful and liberal.  Focused on driving an economic message.

Cons: Not a faithful colleague — quickly turns on Democrats who lose, offering lousy campaign analysis and distorting happenings.

13. Keith Ellison

keith ellison 2020

 

Pros: Appeals to the Sanders wing of the party.

Cons: No longer an elected official and has a past that will attract many oppo dumps.  Is Muslim, which unfortunately might hurt him in a general election.

14. Jason Kander

jason kander 2020

 

Pros: Ran one of the best 2016 Senate campaigns.  Loved by many.  Youthful and energetic; a continued voice in the party with a strong social media presence.

Cons: Lost his one statewide race.



15. Mark Cuban

mark cuban 2020Pros: Wealthy.  Might Democrats want a loud-mouthed businessman of their own to take on Trump?

Cons: Brash and cocky political novice.