Earlier this week, President Obama gave his last State of the Union Address(SOTU) to Congress and the Nation. In his address, he addressed a broad range of issues and accomplishments that He, Congress, and “We The People” have made over the last seven years. In his optimistic and affirmative address, “our future” as a nation was the theme.
President Obama posed and sought to answer four key questions as to what our focus should be over this course of the year and moving forward. He focused on key touchstone issues, including opportunities in our economy, technology, the environment, safety and terrorism, and politics. The pivotal question that President Obama asked was: “how do we as a nation make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?”
He reminded us that democracy requires constructive conversations, rational solutions, and a willingness on the part of all parties and interests groups to work together to fix the issues that ail our nation. He acknowledged that democracy is dysfunctional and unproductive, when politics and partisanship control. He also noted that democracy breaks down when, “the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.”
In order to restore the brokenness within our democracy, President Obama called for an end to gerrymandering. In a delicate way, He also addressed the issue of money in politics, and the influence of money in our democracy. The significance and importance of voting was addressed as He boldly declared that, “our collective future depends on your [our] willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen[s]. To vote. To speak out.”
The SOTU address was the perfect way for me to introduced this unique and nuanced area called, political law. Voting rights, money in politics, campaign finance, and elections are core tenets of political law. A current voting rights issue is theEvenwel v. Abbott Supreme Court case challenging the “one person, one vote”principle under the Equal Protection Clause, as it relates to the drawing of state legislative districts based upon the total population of a jurisdiction. Shelby County v. Holder is another major case that has impacted voting rights. In the Shelby County decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act(VRA) was unconstitutional. Section 4 of the VRA required states with a history of voter suppression laws to receive pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice(DOJ) prior to passing voting laws. These are just some of key political issues and democratic issues that are relevant and should and will be discussed here on the LPC blog.