Civics 101~ Political Parties and Elections

We are slowly working our way through Christian Liberty Press’ , The Land of Fair Play.  Since we have our elections coming in a few short weeks,  I thought I’d skip ahead to our election chapter.

I believe it is our duty to educate ourselves,  learn about elections, the political parties, and vote for those who will defend and uphold the Constitution.  I know that folks everywhere keep saying,   “get out and vote”  but I would advise:  read about the issues first,  read the constitution,  and study our founding fathers.  Decide if you value your liberties and freedoms,  and if you do,  “get out and vote please”…. for the candidate that will protect and defend our God given liberties.  If you are voting because you think your candidate is a fine speaker,  good looking, or cool and hip,  do us all a favor and stay home please!!!!  If you are voting for someone because he is a favorite of your friend,  professor in school,  or Hollywood celebrity…..why bother?

Frankly,  these days I’m not impressed that a candidate is  Harvard Educated or a Rhodes scholar.  I don’t care if he is  ” smart” or a fine speaker or can “work”  a crowd.  I’ll vote for the person who truly loves America, who  fears God, upholds the Constitution, and is an honorable  man or woman of integrity.  I would love to vote for someone like that if they would run for office.

The Ballot– The most important civic duty of an American is to vote wisely and patriotically.  When Americans are lazy or indifferent they are cheating themselves out of their birthright and they are cheating their country. The Land of  Fairplay reminds us,  ” Unless the citizens of a country give it their best wisdom and aid whenever needed, it will become corrupt, and perish.”

Parties- There is nothing about political parties in the Constitution.  They have evolved gradually to unite in groups folks who support certain ideas and leaders.  Most folks tend to join a group.  Folks who who prefer to remain out of the party system often call themselves, “Independents.”

The Two Main Parties– There have usually been two main parties in the United States.  In the first years of the republic, the two parties were the Federalist(Hamilton and John Adams) and the Democratic-Republican (party of Jefferson). The Federalist party believed in a broad construction of the Constitution, giving the national government wide powers.  The Republican party believed in a strict construction, and in holding the national government to the powers clearly set for the in the Constitution.  This dispute is over the “elastic clause.” (ArtI, Sec 8, Par. 18)

Generally, this distinction is still the same but the names have become reversed,  The original Republican party founded by Jefferson changed its name to Democratic in 1828, and retained the name to this day.  The Federalists lasted only a generation and became the National Republicans of 1828, the Whigs from 1833-1854, and the Republicans from 1854 until now.  The present Republican party opposed slavery and advocated a protective tariff.  The Civil war ended slavery and the tariff was the chief issue for years.  Now the big dispute over the strength of the national government  is a significant argument that divides the two parties.

Third Parties-Some of the third parties have died out over the years but some are still alive.  We had the Populist party, a farmer’s party, the Progressive party (under leadership of Theodore Roosevelt) and the socialist party.  Currently we also have the Green, Libertarian, and Constitution Party.

Platform and Primary-Before every election,  each party forms a party platform which is sort of a mission statement about the principles for which it stands.  It nominates, candidates through an election of its own called a primary.  These candidates of a party are called its “ticket.”  Since the great mass of voters will vote for party candidates, no one else stands a  real chance of election and you will throw away your vote if you cast it for an outsider.  So, basically the election has been narrowed down, to a choice between the party candidates who stand on the party platform.

Importance of the Primary-The Primary election is important because we do not want to be left with a poor choice on Election Day.  The time to make the first choice is at this first election day called the primary which takes place months before the general election.

The National Conventions-The presidential candidates are chosen at a great national convention in which delegates from all the States sit.  It takes place every four years in the summer preceding the election and is one of our most stirring political events.  The national platform is made up and after many speeches, prolonged balloting the candidate is named.

The Campaign-A Presidential campaign can be very exciting.  There are events held all over the country, and the candidates speak before great crowds.  Every voter should have ample time to read and hear all the arguments, discuss them with his family and friends and decide how he will vote on Election Day.  If our candidates are speaking the truth and not hiding their true ideologies and values we should be able to choose wisely.  In order to appeal to a wider audience,  I have found that many candidates appear to be different during the campaigns than they are when elected.  For example,  our current president tried to seem more moderate in his views during the campaigns however,  his policies reveal his  socialist philosophy.

Political Action Committees (PACs) were created because of a law which forbids corporations, labor unions and other special-interest groups to make direct campaign contributions.  But these groups can give to PACs which can contribute $5000 or more directly to the candidate which supports their political views.  These committees can also spend as much as they want to support candidates, independent of the particular candidate’s campaign.

Registration and Election- In order to prevent fraud, no citizen can vote unless he has previously entered his name on the voting list of his election district with his address, age and other details.  Some groups like ACORN have been involved in voter fraud.  Folks would try to win election by hiring criminals to vote in several election districts. (Repeaters)

Bribery-There is always a criminal group in every community willing to sell its votes.  This is called bribery.  The person who bribes and the man who takes the bribe are guilty of one of the worst crimes.  If convicted, they should be  heavily sentenced. Buying or selling a vote is a dishonorable crime and an act of treachery to one’s country.

The Secret BallotAs long as voting was public, a briber could be sure of his vote.  Public voting made possible the control of the weak by the powerful.  A man might lack the courage to vote as he thought he should, through fear of losing his job.  This is why the secret ballot was invented.  It first began in Australia and it spread to the US in the 1890’2 and most free nations.  A person’s vote must always be entirely his own secret.   Did you know that many union groups desire to get  rid of the secret ballot!!!

There are three features of the secret ballot.

1. All ballots of all parties are printed at public expense and given out to the voters,  one, by one, at the polls.

2. The voter marks his ballot, thus indicating his vote, alone in a booth or small compartment.

3.  The Ballot is then kept secret and deposited, so that on one can see how it is marked.

Who Can Vote- Each state has the right to say who shall vote, barring the one exception of the 15th Amendment, designed to insure the right to vote for all citizens regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  In the early days of our republic , there were many restrictions.  Only men with property were allowed to vote.  As America grew, the demand for the vote came from all groups.  By 1850 all white males were able to vote but most States did not allow blacks to vote.  In 1868, all blacks were granted citizenship, enabling all me to vote in every State.  The Nineteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1920 giving women the right to vote throughout the country.  The right to vote was also given to all citizens of 18 years of age in 1971.  Today the requirements are:

1. Citizenship by birth or naturalization

2. Age-must be 18

3. Residence- a person must live within a State a certain period of time before voting.

The presidential election comes every four years on  the Tuesday, after the first Monday in November.    All the elections are to occupy the various offices of our government.  The people we elect represent us for the term of their office and make our laws, execute them and interpret them for us and in our name.  Under this system the people make the laws but they do it indirectly through representatives.

Our government is a republic and not a “pure democracy.” It is important to understand the  difference between a republic and a democracy.  A democracy simply  means the rule of the majority. A republic means the rule of law.  We elect our officials in a democratic manner but we do not have a rule of the majority.  We have the rule of law,  which is our constitution.  We would not want the majority to ever take away a persons constitutional rights like they could in a true democracy. In a democracy, if you could convince enough people that freedom of religion or speech  is a bad thing it could be overturned by the majority.  The rule of law in a  republic like ours…. based on the Constitution…. says that the majority can not take away the rights of the people.  We live by the rule of law.

May God Bless America and fill our hearts with gratitude for giving us such a wonderful country to live in.  May we live a life that is pleasing to the Lord; praying for those who are in authority,  and electing leaders who are good, honest and God fearing.  Amen!

If you would enjoy reading more from our Civics 101 study click here.

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