Political Primers: History + Concepts

A quick breakdown of a politically complex idea, historical event, hot topic, government process - you get it.

Civil Disobedience

John Rawls, American philosopher, defined this as: a public, non-violent, willful breaking of a law in order to bring about legal or civil change.  When protesters are marching peacefully for BLM/Civil Rights, are then declared a mob by authorities but continue to peacefully march for real, sustained change - that is civil disobedience.  Barack Obama, in his George Floyd Protest Speech on 06/03/20, said this era is about both activism and politics.

Stanford piece on Civil Disobedience

Executive Privilege

Definition: The right for the President (and some of his/her staff) to maintain secrecy and privacy of information - sometimes even when called into court by Congress with a subpoena.  

The checks and balances for this includes Congressional oversight (like subpoena power) and the Supreme Court's judicial review.

Executive privilege applies to a sitting President. It is no longer applicable once that particular President leaves office.

Explained by Cornell Law

The Pentagon Papers

The Supreme Court case New York Times Company v. United States of 06/26/71 was about President Nixon's court order against the New York Times and Washington Post that prevented them from publishing government docs detailing US military ops in Vietnam.

Ruling 6-3 in favor of the NYT/WaPo, the Court said the Nixon admin's actions were unconstitutional - a milestone precedent for preventing the censorship of our American press. "Security" is not a politician's blanket term used to keep citizens in the dark.

Great ACLU read on this


From Asian American Advancing Justice (AAAJ):

"Redistricting is the redrawing of political district lines by governments.

Census data are collected every 10 years and are used to draw new maps to account for the ways that populations have changed and moved across states and districts."

AAAJ's tweet thread with graphics

The Squad

Former President Trump launched a variety of xenophobic, biased, and bigoted attacks on 4 Congressional Democratic non-white women, first in a 2019 NC speech.  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) (NY-14) coined the "Squad" in an Instagram post soon after, referring to herself and colleagues: Rep's Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), & Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).

The Squad is expanding into a stronger coalition of 6 Progressive leaders as of the 2020 election cycle, with Rep's Bowman (NY-16) and Bush (MO-01).

View AOC's IG '19 post

View Cori Bush's '21 post

The Two-Party System

Our winner-take-all system is a major reason for why we only have 2 dominant political parties in the US.  In 48/50 states, when a Presidential candidate wins a state, they get ALL of those electoral votes.  Not just the % of votes they won in that state.  

This makes it harder for smaller political parties to gain representation in Congress and nearly impossible for them to win the Presidency.

A great scientific journal explainer

The Former Guy's Deep State

The Deep State, as the Former Guy sees it, is: A constantly growing and shifting, ultra-liberal shadow government that is to be more administrative and controlling of all government functions (undermining his personal and conservative agendas). Anyone from teachers to firefighters, voters to government officials could play a part in the Former Guy's definition of a Deep State.  Fear of this illusory Deep State makes for bad, costly political decisions.

Author David Rhode explains this well

Example of an AP fact check on this

Vote By Mail Q&A

Q: What is a common mistake to be aware of with absentee/mail in votes?

A: Remember to sign your ballot - using the signature that matches your Driver's License / ID

Q: What is the best way to make sure my ballot is delivered safely?

A: Ideally, drop off your absentee ballot at a secure ballot drop-box, polling place, or with your county/election officials.

Q: Is voting by mail safe?

A: Historically, yes - instances of vote by mail fraud have been anomalies and no fraud trends have been uncovered in prior elections.

It is best to be current with USPS changes and how those changes will impact voting by mail for you.

Brookings Institute post on this