Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex: was he right?

Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex: was he right?

Discussion #1 – Should we restrict campaign spending or contributions?

A 2010 Supreme Court decision – Citizens United – opened the door for unlimited spending by individuals on behalf of political candidates.   Should we take steps to reduce the influence of money on our presidential elections?  We could do this either by limiting the amount of money candidates can spend directly, by limiting direct contributions, or even taking steps to limit spending on behalf of a candidate (something that would require a constitutional amendment).

Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex: was he right?

Discussion #2 – Who was our best president?

Share with your group your idea about who was the most effective or best president and why.  The idea is to identify something specific that a president accomplished, explain why that translates into effectiveness or success, and reflect on what types of circumstances might be lead to a more or less successful administration. Who do you think was the most effective or best U.S. president? What specific accomplishments or outcomes led you to this conclusion? What types of circumstances (things outside of the control of the president or under control of the president) might have helped to bring about these outcomes? What personal traits or characteristics (charisma, persistence, energy, experience, negotiating skills) might have been important for the success of this president?

Discussion #3 Do presidents need more power?

President Biden is confronted with a number of serious challenges – problems maintaining border security, disruptions to the supply chain and rising prices, a public health crisis, and a long-running trade dispute with China. Do contemporary presidents need more formal power in order to be effective? (For background, see “The Power of Persuasion” 

Discussion #4 Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex: was he right?

As he left the White House in January 1961, President Eisenhower, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant military leaders, warned of the dangers of a growing military budget and defense establishment.  Take a look at the brief video that describes his speech.  What do you think?  Was he right?  Has government spending on defense or the military itself become too powerful or large?  No need for a detailed analysis, just share your perspective on this speech with your group.   Does this resonate with you after watching the election or learning about war powers?  You will see a link to the short clip and the entire speech if you want to take a look. 

Discussion #5 Should we elect federal judges? 

Federal judges make decisions that have profound impacts on our daily lives.   But they are not elected or subject to recall.  How is that possible in a democracy?   Why don’t we elect federal judges the same way we elect members of Congress or the president?  Should we elect federal judges?

Discussion #6 Should social media expression be treated differently than other speech?

Is it OK for Twitter to label tweets as mis-information?  As I scroll through President Trump’s recent tweets, Twitter labels many of them with statements like “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”  Should social media platforms police our speech in this way?  More broadly, do you think that social media platforms are about individual freedom of expression (so we should protect free speech) or do we approach them as media sources, with some expectation that what we see is not deceptive or wrong (so some justification for labeling or censoring)?  Is Twitter striking the right balance?

Discussion #7 What is the best way to balance religious freedom and the public interest?

Federal judges can take one of two approaches when they are confronted with a case that invokes religious beliefs to challenge a law.

 In some cases the beliefs are subordinated to the public interest – the federal government, for instance, forbids polygamy (marriage to more than one person) even though some religious traditions promote that practice.

In other cases, the religious beliefs are privileged – Hobby Lobby employee medical insurance doesn’t cover access to emergency contraception or two types of IUDs since the corporation’s religious beliefs clash with certain types of contraception.

 Which standard would you use — advancing the public interest? or advancing religious freedom?  How do you know when each standard should apply?  No detailed legal reasoning required, just some words about how someone might land on one standard or the other. 



Discussion #8 Do we need to put strict limits on the use of emergency powers?

Listen to the short video on elearning, “Trump’s Emergency Powers Are ‘Ripe for Abuse”.  https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/577249/emergency-powers/

 While the particular president that inspired the concerns outlined in the video was Donald Trump, the questions raised in the video are more general.  Based on what you heard or learned in the video, do you agree with the conclusion – that Congress needs to take specific steps to limit emergency powers?    In some ways this is like the question in an earlier module about excessive federal power – the concerns of the Anti-Federalists.  Or the concerns raised in the video something we should address or not really a problem since most presidents do not abuse these powers?