Tag: Constitution Day

Presidential primaries discussed at Constitution Day

by Autumn Bippert

Every four years, the country begins the nominating process of candidates for United States presidential elections.

The history of presidential primaries and the processes of primaries were the main topics discussed at the Constitution Day event at South Plains College.

The Social Sciences Department hosted the annual panel in honor of Constitution Day, which is a federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens.

Drew Landry, assistant professor of government at SPC, served as the moderator for the discussion held on Sept. 21 in the Sundown Room in the Student Center Building on the Levelland campus.

The panelists included Timothy Holland, assistant professor of government at SPC; Christina Bearden-White, assistant professor of history at SPC; Lubbock County Democratic Chair John Gibson; former and Lubbock County Republican Chair Carl Tepper.

Landry said that primaries are not actually mentioned anywhere in the Constitution.

Holland began the panel by explaining that presidential primaries are unlike any other types of primaries.

“Whenever you vote in a normal primary, whether it’s for Congress or the sheriff, your vote is directly going to choosing who’s going to be the nominee of your party,” Holland explained. “But one of the interesting things with the presidential primaries is you’re actually voting for delegates. And it’s the delegates that get elected to your national party convention that will actually choose who’s going to be your presidential nominee for either the Democratic Party or Republican Party, or any of the various third parties.”

Holland also mentioned that with the upcoming election there will be a lot of coverage of the nomination process.

“There are 22 candidates or so currently running for the Democratic nomination,” explained Holland. “That means that there’s going to be a lot of splitting of delegates from each state. And so the possibility that we might end up at a brokered convention, which we’ll talk about a little bit later, is pretty likely at the moment if we continue to have so many candidates. You are going to have quite a bit about divisions that are going on. In the most recent polls, Biden was only pulling 20 percent nationally, Warren 18 percent, and Sanders 16 percent. They’re nowhere near the majority that they’re ultimately going to need, or to have enough delegates, to win the national convention.”

Bearden-White followed by giving the history of primaries.0Q6A6727

“The Constitution had no provision for political parties to begin with,” Bearden-White explained. “In fact, many of the founding fathers thought that a political party would be the downfall of the new Republic. Even James Madison, who’s considered the father of the Constitution and who wrote the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, and Alexander Hamilton both wrote papers that said what we don’t want is partisanship. Madison believed that there wouldn’t be any one party. He believed that people would have factions and thought that different factions would come together, and that they would form a party briefly in order to get things passed.”

She also explained that later both Hamilton and Madison ended up becoming heads of the first political parties.

“The first elections that happened were not by the people at all,” said Bearden-White. “They went through the electoral college. And they would cast one for president and one for vice president. So the first presidential election where they had two political parties running, John Adams, who had been vice president, became president and then ended up with a person on the opposite ticket, Thomas Jefferson, as his vice president.”

She explained that later the 12th Amendment put into law that presidents and vice presidents had to be in the same parties. Bearden-White also discussed how, historically, primaries were conducted and changed, as well as Abraham Lincoln’s election.

The panel discussed that historically you had to have name recognition in order to run for president.

  Tepper talked about how a lot of the primary process is dictated by state law and election code.

“Which is a bit controversial within the parties,” he added. “We don’t think the state should be telling us how to run. We are independent parties, we’re independent citizens and we don’t believe that they should have any influence over the structure of our political parties.”

Tepper said that state codes don’t mention Republicans or Democrats, but just mentions that a party has to conduct themselves in a certain way. He explained that both parties are obligated to a chairman of the party, a state chairman and the vice chairman. If the chairman is a man, then the vice chairman has to be a woman, or vice versa.

The panel then discussed the upcoming primary battle in 2020.

“There are some states that are wanting to cancel their third GOP primaries. What do you make of that? Do you think that’s a good thing?” Landry asked Tepper.

Tepper said that every party is going to want to have a vote in the primary process.

“There was a big Free the Delegates movement (in the 2016 primaries),” explained Tepper. “As a matter of fact, my vice chairman in Lubbock County was part of the Free the Delegates group. And then there was a lot of relationships broken over that process. The Texas delegation was at almost fisticuffs in hotel lobbies between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump at the time.”

Tepper explained that with the upcoming primary, there could be a lot of tension and division about who will be the candidate like has been seen in the past. Ultimately, it is going to come down to which candidate is better at interacting with the delegates who will decide the nominees, according to Tepper.

Gibson discussed that there are more disagreements in the Democratic Party about policies and procedures rather than the candidates’ stance. They are looking at whether candidates are using rules properly.

The panel also discussed how Texas’s demographics will play a major role in the upcoming election.

“Texas has been a majority minority state for quite some time now, 10 or 12 years,” Tepper said. “The white voters are outnumbered. They have been by the Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks, and some of those groups tend to vote Democratic. We’re starting to see a shift there.”

Tepper also said that Texas is becoming more of a metropolitan state, so the urban areas are growing and tend to vote more Democratic as well.

“The demographics are definitely shifting to make a more competitive state,” Tepper said. “It’s also interesting that Texas has been able to export a lot of resources over the years, money and volunteers (for campaigns.)”

He also explained that Texas has become more and more a two-party state, which makes it a major variable in the upcoming election.

The panelists also answered questions about PACS, voting percentages of the country and ranked voting.

Students informed about freedom of speech on Constitution Day

The development of free speech, how the government works to protect our First Amendment rights, and recent controversies that have been seen on social media were the main topics discussed at the Constitution Day event at South Plains College.

The event was hosted by Timothy Holland, government instructor. He is the one organized the event and served as the moderator for the discussion held Sept. 21 in the Sundown Room in the Student Center Building on the Levelland campus.

The panelists included Drew Landry, assistant professor of government, Dr. Sharon Bogener, professor of History, and Lubbock attorney Dane Norman.

On Sept. 17, 1787, the founding fathers formally signed the Constitution and today, this signing is commemorated with the annual event known as Constitution Day. All education institutions that receive federal funding are required to hold a Constitution Day event.

Constitution Day was held at SPC with a public presentation or discussion on important issues taking place within our country. Constitution Day is open to all students who were interested in better understanding free speech and the First Amendment.

Dr. Bogener opened the discussion by expressing the fact that the government had struggled for centuries to protect rights to speak freely.

From the late 1700’s to the modern era, this right has changed drastically. However, though the course of time, the government has placed restrictions as to how far we can go to practice freedom of speech.

“All throughout the 19th century, there was any number of incidences that limited free speech,” Dr. Bogener said.

Many occurrences that took place during that time involved any individuals who spoke out against slavery or those who participated in any form of strike or protest could end up with a one-year prison sentence.

In 1918, before World War I, the United States government passed another Sedition Act that still made it illegal to criticize the government and their policies.

Dr. Bogener stressed that “under the Sedition Act more than 2,000 people were arrested and more than 1,000 of those people were convicted, and again, this is a clear violation of their First Amendment right.”

Even while all of this was happening throughout the country, nobody had challenged these issues until 1919.

Certainly, the government has improved on protecting free speech, and “the First Amendment was created to protect us from an abusive government that would want to censor us,” Landry said.

According to Norman, the benefit to allowing free speech is essentially to keep away the danger of government censorship.

“Once the government can begin to censor what ideas and opinions we are allowed to express, at a certain point they would be able to control and shape our opinions,” Norman said.

The government made it to where citizens are allowed to express themselves freely without the fear of the government stopping them from practicing their First Amendment rights.

Landry also mentioned that former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was a conservative, once wrote, “not all constitutional rights are unlimited,” meaning that there are limits to the rights of citizens.

When it comes to individuals using slander to ruin one’s reputation and /or career, that is when the government will step in with laws that have been placed to put restrictions on individuals abusing their freedom of speech.

This is known as malicious intent, meaning an intentional, wrongful act against someone without a justified excuse and causes harm or damage as the result.

When the government steps in to help out citizens who are being attacked, they use defamation laws to balance the protection for the individual’s reputation with freedom of expression.

However, generally all opinions want to be protected, according to Norman. While being able to express one’s own opinion, the issue is when something is presented as a fact when it is false.

With defamation laws, there are some issues that can stay protected and some that cannot, depending on the damage that it causes. If an individual is at fault, then they must show that what they declared to be true is a false claim.

An example that was used by Norman is the accumulating opinions such as if Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. Individuals can still form these opinions, even if it is not founded on any solid information, as long as there is still a distinction between the facts and opinions.

This has been a major issue noticed by a large number of young individuals who use social media. This concern has been currently affecting the younger community, and it has played a huge factor in formulating opinions about the government.

Although it is acceptable to make these opinions, according to Landry, it can be difficult to differentiate between opinion and fact, especially with how fast information spreads throughout social media.

“That’s why you should not rely on a single source as your information,” Dr. Bogener said. “To really be informed, you need to get your information from various sources and opinions.”

Free press, fake news topics of discussion at Constitution Day

The pace of the news is faster than ever. Making sense of it all was at the forefront of this year’s Constitution Day discussion at South Plains College.

Every year, Constitution Day is celebrated at SPC with a public presentation or conversation on important issues facing our country, looking back at past events and forward to future possibilities.

The event, held on Sept. 29 in the Sundown Room in the Student Center, was organized by the Social Sciences Department. The focus of this year’s talk was the freedom of the press provision of the First Amendment, and discussion regarding the idea of so-called “fake news.”

Leading this year’s dialogue as moderator was Tim Holland, instructor in government, with Drew Landry, assistant professor of government, keeping time and tracking social media questions. A panel of local experts gave their thoughts on the questions brought forward.

Before the discussion started, all in attendance were encouraged to take out their smartphones and tweet questions to the Twitter account @SPCGovernment, using the hashtag #1AFakeNews, so questions could be selected for the panel.

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David Williams, Dr. Sharon Bogener, Tim Holland, and Matt Dotray formed the panel for Constitution Day on Sept. 29. MATT MOLINAR/PLAINSMAN PRESS

The subject that garnered the most discussion by far was “fake news,” both what it really is, and how journalists and consumers alike might take measures to fight it.

“You can go back as far as you want to in the history of the world and find so-called ‘fake news,’” said Dr. Sharon Bogener, professor of History at SPC.

According to her, this idea of generating false claims through the media isn’t a new development at all, even if the phrase “fake news” is. The term “yellow journalism” has been around for far longer, and the world isn’t only just now being faced with sensationalized news reporting.

So why the fervor from both sides of the political spectrum about this idea that suddenly seems so new?

“I think it’s uncomfortable to go outside of one’s bubble,” said Matt Dotray, political reporter at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “It is so easy to just feed off your own beliefs that that’s become the default.”

This can then lead to a cycle of only consuming news and ideas that fall within that set of beliefs, and everything else is mentally shifted into a place of reduced credibility.

“Generally, there’s been a decline in trust in sources,” said Holland. “I’ve pulled up a couple of opinion polls from Gallup that’s been doing a tracking poll for quite some time, and confidence in newspapers has been in the 20s.”

“Those aren’t good numbers,” Dotray replied.

But unfortunately, those statistics reflect a reality for many Americans today, even if the sentiment goes all the way back to the American Revolution.

“Not believing the media is a much older look at the media than expecting it to be true,” said Dr. Bogener.

If that’s the case, how can things such as speculation or outright lies be differentiated inside a media that is generally distrusted by the public at large? Is it the responsibility of the press or the people to make this distinction?

“You have to really consider the source of what you’re looking at,” said David Williams, news director at KCBD-TV in Lubbock. “I think there’s a very distinct difference between your local media and the national media.”

Williams added, “Somebody once told me, and I try to always remember this: people will rarely remember who had the story first, but they’ll never forget if you get it wrong.”

Some could argue that putting pundits giving opinionated commentary so close to actual fact-based news reporting is confusing the matter even more.

“I think commentary has its place in political discussions, but I don’t think it should be depended on,” said Dotray. “What’s key to that is to make it well known that it’s commentary. Because I think sometimes the line gets blurred, and that’s when it becomes an issue.”

“CNN always gets called ‘fake news,’” added Dotray. “They’ve kind of become the face of it. CNN is just bad is all. I don’t think having six people arguing around a table […] is helping anybody. Facts don’t matter in those discussions. At all.”

With all the cynicism and doubt about what is real and what isn’t in the media that has apparently been around since the dawn of media itself, why is the press the single profession that the country’s founders decided to protect in the United States Constitution?

“I think it has to do with their experiences at the time, and what they saw,” said Williams. “Maybe they had the foresight to see that information is critical to our culture and the type of country that we were trying to develop at the time.”

Holland came at the question from a more practical point of view.

“There’s certainly no greater check on the power of government or individual politicians than information,” said Holland. “Oftentimes, the media is called the fourth branch of government, or ‘the fourth estate,’ and I think that’s a very apt term.”

The consensus from the entire panel was ultimately a positive one: that regardless of how effective legitimate news organizations currently are at rebuffing the accusations of being “fake news,” if readers and viewers try to occasionally step outside their bubbles, our country may just make it through to the other side, possibly even a little bit more informed than we were before.

“I think you need to read both sides of the story,” said Dr. Bogener, “and make an educated decision, rather than just jump on the train that you like the best.”