Connecting the 2008 Election to the US Constitution: Agenda and Readings

Connecting the 2008 Election to the Constitution

Educational Service District 112

Vancouver, Washington

October 9 – 11, 2008

Will Harris

Political Science Department, University of Pennsylvania and

Center for the Constitution, James Madison’s Montpelier

This professional development program for teachers is free of charge but seating is limited and advanced registration is required.. To register, contact Matt Karlsen.

A. Thursday, October 9, 2008 (5:00 – 8:30)

Talking About the Differences that Matter:

Federalist and Antifederalist Approaches to Politics

Readings: James Madison (Fed., No. 10, 14, 37, 51 [excerpts]); Agrippa (Letter XVII); and Centinel (Letter No. 1)

Federalist No. 10 (Excerpt)

Federalist No. 14 (Excerpt)

Federalist No. 37 (Excerpt)

Federalist No. 51 (Excerpt)

Agrippa Letter XVII (Excerpt)

Centinel Letter No. 1 (Excerpt)

B. Friday, October 10 (9:00 – 12:00)

Understanding the Job Description:

The Constitutional Vision of Executive Power

Readings: The Constitution, Art. II; Alexander Hamilton (Fed., Nos. 67, 69, 70, 74, and 75); Patrick Henry (readings to be provided at first meeting)

US Constitution Article II

Federalist No. 67

Federalist No. 69

Federalist No. 70

Federalist No. 74

Federalist No. 75

C. Friday, October 10 (12:45 – 4:00)

Constitutional Approaches to Policy Debates

(Potentially including Finance, Energy, Health Care, International Relations, Immigration, Crime, and Immigration)

Readings: See “A Very Short Selection of Important Speeches in the 2008 Presidential Campaign” (below)

D. Saturday, October 11 (9:00 – 12:00)

The Unseen Debate:

What Would an Obama-McCain Constitutional Debate Look Like?

A Very Short Selection of Important Speeches

in the 2008 Presidential Campaign

by Barack Obama and John McCain

This is just a selection of key speeches by the two candidates in the 2008 election of the United States. I have included five speeches by John McCain and four by Barack Obama, because McCain’s speeches tend to be shorter than Obama’s (a point that is meaningful in itself, in terms of the Antifederalist and Federalist styles of discourse). More importantly, however, the goal of our own discussions is to see what deeper dimensions of political knowledge and constitutional vision might be present in their words. Thus it would be good it you both read and listened to the speeches; if you have to choose, however, you should read the text itself (especially since some of the recordings provided for the remarks are incomplete versions of the speeches).

This is an inquiry, not yet a set of insights or conclusions. The point is to use the perspectives of Federalist and Antifederalist ways of thinking, established as part of the Constitutional Founding itself, as a way to understand and assess the critical political debates of our own day.

The websites of both candidates (and their vice-presidential running mates) are quite substantial and valuable for their thorough contents. You may very well want to look over other speeches besides those I have listed. I would encourage you to do so — especially since our purpose is to understand the different positions thoroughly and honestly, and not to present one of them as preferable, or as fitting the way of thinking (Federalist and/or Antifederalist) with which we may already believe we are ourselves most compatible. Beyond that, it would be good to see how each candidate is presenting himself comprehensively through his whole website: an electronic persona carrying forward a prototype or mixture of prototypes from the Constitutional Founding.

Barack Obama

[click on “Learn”; then “Obama Speeches”]:

1. August 28, 2008

“The American Promise” (Democratic Convention Acceptance Speech)

2. July 24, 2008

“A World that Stands as One” (Berlin,Germany)

3. March 18, 2008

“A More Perfect Union” (National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, on race in America)

4. March 27, 2008

“Renewing the American Economy” (New York)

John McCain

[click on “News and Media”; then “Speeches”]:

1. September 5, 2008

Acceptance Speech (Minneapolis)

2. April 10, 2008

Remarks on The Economy At Brooklyn Small Business Roundtable

3. May 7, 2008

Remarks on His Vision for Defending the Freedom and Dignity of the World’s Vulnerable (Rochester, MI)

4. June 3, 2008

“A Leader We Can Believe In” (New Orleans)

5. May 15, 2008

“Four Year Vision for America” (Columbus, OH)


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