Everything You Don’t Know About Small Town Politics

Have you ever heard that time-worn piece of advice, “Focus on the betterment of your own community and leave the national stage alone?” Well, it’s not so easy to implement change in small towns, either, because they suffer from the same roadblocks as our federal legislators. But that’s not to say they get nothing done. After all, people from the same small towns tend to lean the same way politically. And sometimes that’s the biggest problem of all.

One of the biggest disadvantages in small towns is that it’s not necessarily about how hard you work. Like in show business, it’s who you know! Think about it this way. Those living in poverty don’t generally marry into wealthy families — because they live in completely different rungs of the somewhat invisible American caste system, and the wealthy don’t want them. And what do you need to have a shot at the office? Money. Which means you need to already know someone with money or power — or have it yourself.

That’s not to say that anyone is barred from going to town hall meetings or speaking up while you’re there. 

Volusia County attorney John Dawes said, “Half a million people live in Volusia. It’s not a small region. But there are rural areas too, and I’ve worked on behalf of some of those residents. Many are taken advantage of by local business leaders or small town mayors who think they can get away with murder. The power goes to your head faster in a small town. Everyone talks, but there’s nothing anyone can do. There’s no oversight.”

And it’s that lack of oversight that makes politics in small towns more difficult on everyone. It’s also important to realize that most small towns don’t like the idea of government to begin with — which means in order to change anything, first you need to convince the township that you’re just going to go along with the status quo. And that means you’ll never get reelected. You might even get recalled!

That’s one reason why people from rural areas hate big government. While people who live in metropolitan areas are accustomed to seeing and hearing from their political leaders, people who live in smaller communities have very little interaction with the federal government. That entity lives far away, and they don’t see themselves as a part of it. Hint: don’t run as a Democrat in a small community. You will lose.

People who live in tiny towns see and interact with their own mayors, council members, and everyone knows the sheriff. That makes for a great recipe for corruption. For example, the sheriff will sooner or later have to make a choice between arresting or ticketing a friend or simply letting them off the hook even though that isn’t a real option. And mayors and council members are a lot more likely to have individuals’ interests at heart when making big decisions about where taxes are spent. That means that votes are easier to get and incumbency is easier to keep.

What is a Tyrant?

Most of us probably have our own definitions for the word nowadays, but throughout history, the term “tyrant” referred to a ruler wish relatively unrestricted power. He could do whatever he wanted, and usually, he wielded this power with little regard for those lower on the totem pole. He was considered cruel by any standard of the rule, and he squashed those who opposed him like bugs–if he could. Historically, tyrants often meet sometimes justifiably violent ends. It’s difficult to prevent other outcomes through other means.

A tyrant usually gains this kind of power outside of the traditional processes already established. For example, in a democracy, a tyrant would have to acquire office after removing the previously elected official in the highest office. A coup would need to take place in order for this to happen, which means a tyrant requires substantial support–at least temporarily–or well-placed chess pieces in order to get it done.

In ancient Greek society, a tyrant was no more and no less than an authoritative sovereign. So early on in history, the term had not established the purely negative connotations that would become attached to it later. Even so, some Greek philosophers like Plato obviously did not approve of the type of power which a tyrant held or the kind of influence he wielded. According to him, the tyrant was one who ruled outside of the traditionally held values of law, like a lawyer or a judge. Before the rise of militaristic dictatorships in Sicily during the fifth and fourth centuries BC, tyrants often held power while the government transitioned from an oligarchy to a polity with slight democratic undertones.

What most people might not realize is that there are other forms of tyranny that can occur and that our current democratic form of government could easily fall to any one of them. One form of tyranny not often considered is one in which the minority rules. The more obvious counterpart to this form is that in which the majority rules. Technically, a tyranny in which the majority rules is called a democracy (gotcha), while one in which the minority rules is an oligarchy. Any of these types of tyranny can lead to oppression of other groups within such a society, which can, in turn, lead parts of history to be excluded or undervalued and underrepresented.

We already see some of the shortcomings of this tyranny of the majority in the form of democracy we currently have, and actually, it’s the entire reason that the two parties inside of the U.S. government are often at war with one another.

There are those who use democratic means to place their own interests above all others, and then there are those who believe that we should use our government for the good of all. In the former, the tyranny of the majority leads to rampant racism and xenophobia. Ironically, the founding fathers of the U.S. were well aware of this inherent weakness of democracy and constructed the electoral college system of determining a president in order to dampen the possibility of this outcome.

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Some Of The Most Corrupt U.S. Government Officials In History

With the U.S. political environment in upheaval, it’s led to a number of different claims. One of the common ones is that the Trump administration is the “most corrupt administration of all time“. However, many people who say that don’t have a very good grasp on history. It’s hard to properly judge if you have nothing to judge by.

Spiro Agnew

Given that Agnew was Vice President under Richard Nixon, one would think that’s all the scandal needed. However, Agnew decided he wanted to be remembered for his own corruption.

It was found that he’d accepted a total of $147,000 in bribes while he was the governor of Maryland. He also took a total of $17,500 in cash while serving as the Vice President.

Of course, unlike much of the corruption in recent years, Agnew was forced to resign and pay reparations to the state. He wound up being fined $268,000.

James Traficant

Traficant was convicted of 10 felony counts of crimes such as accepting bribes, racketeering, and tax evasion. Following a parallel to current political events, Traficant outright refused to admit he’d done anything wrong. As such, he refused to resign.

He was kicked out of Congress by a House vote that went 420 – 1. Not only was he kicked out of Congress, but he was then sentenced to 8 years in prison. So as blatantly corrupt as he may have been, he did see consequences to his actions.

Randy Cunningham

Cunningham, the House Representative from San Diego, was so corrupt that a book about his crimes had “the most corrupt congressman ever caught” as part of the title.

During the years 1991 and 2005, Cunningham sat on a committee that decided which defense contractors to hire for government business. This put him in a great position to accept large bribes, and the defense contractors were willing to do so. He accepted bribes in excess of $2.4 million dollars in exchange for his vote.

He was forced to resign, and in 2006 was sentenced to 8 years in the federal penitentiary. He was also forced to pay $1.8 million in restitution for his crimes.

These are some of the most corrupt U.S. officials throughout recent history. That said, these officials all suffered consequences for their crimes. The fact that some current politicians have seen no consequences for known crimes immediately more corrupt. After all, what can be more corrupt than committing these crimes other than getting away with it?

An Introduction to the History of Political Debates in the United States

When you hear the word “election,” one of the first things that probably pops into your mind is the very public debate system that is now used for every seat from President to the city council. However, you might not know much about the history of political debates and how they became an important part of the election process.

For much of the history of the country, debates were a non-issue. The first actual debate involved Abraham Lincoln before he became president of the country. He had followed a competitor and questioned him from the audience. At one particular venue on the journey, both men took the stage and debated for more than three hours about the issues of the day.

However, the trend did not catch on at that point in time. Many years later, the radio helped a bit with attention to Thomas Dewey and fellow presidential contender Harold Stassen taking to the airwaves to debate their differences on communism and whether it should be outlawed in the country. A few more debates even took place on television with little fanfare.

That all changed when future presidents Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy engaged in a televised debate during late September 1960. Nixon was not feeling well and had been hospitalized recently. His color was poor and he had dropped some weight while ill, making him look even more gaunt.

On the other side of the stage sat JFK, just back from California and showing off the casually handsome tan and winning smile the young man became known for. While those who listened on the radio found Nixon held himself well during the debate, those who were watching future-President Kennedy were mesmerized, at least somewhat, by the healthy and energetic young candidate. It’s sad what happened to him in Texas.

It became clear that debates were a huge deal in election outcomes and that appearances played a big role, possibly even more than where candidates stood on issues. It has been more than 50 years since then, and debates take place at every level of the political field today.

While it seems earlier citizens had little interest in debates, the addition of television access to the political process seems to have changed all of that. Though few candidates resemble JFK, they have learned the lessons of charm and ease when speaking to the public. Every debate these days has something interesting to unveil!

5 United States Vice Presidents That Became President

We love you Joe Biden but you are not a president

In total, there have been 48 men have served as the Vice President of the United States. And fourteen of those men went on to become president. But there are five Vice Presidents turn Presidents that are a notch above the others.

Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt initially served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for President William McKinley. He later left that post and served as the Governor of New York. After Vice President Garret Hobart passed away in 1899, McKinley asked Roosevelt to be his running mate in the 1900 election. The pair won in a landslide.

When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt became president. Roosevelt ran for re-election in 1904 and won. After serving a full term, Roosevelt was succeeded by his close friend William Howard Taft. Teddy was a great president but not nearly on the same level as his fifth cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt who established social security.

Calvin Coolidge

Coolidge served as vice president under Warren G. Harding. Surprisingly, Coolidge was not Harding’s first choice for a running mate. Irvine Lenroot, a senator from Wisconsin, was initially selected. After Lenroot vacated the position, Coolidge was chosen for the position.

President Harding died suddenly in 1923. Coolidge was sworn into office the day after his death. In 1924, Coolidge ran for re-election and was elected to a full-term. While Coolidge was president, the United States saw significant economic growth.

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson was the vice president of John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Johnson was sworn in as president. Johnson was re-elected in 1964.

Curiously, Johnson is one of just four people to have served as a senator, a congressman, the vice president, and the president. Before his election to the House of Representatives, Johnson worked as a congressional aide.

Harry Truman

Harry S. Truman was the vice president of Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Roosevelt passed away near the end of World War II, Truman took over his office. At the time, Truman had been vice president for just 82 days.

Truman ran for re-election in 1948. While Truman was initially expected to lose, he wound up defeating his opponents and winning a second-term.

Gerald Ford

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. became president after Richard Nixon resigned from the office. He is the only person to have become president without being voted into the office of president or vice president. He ran for re-election in 1976 but lost to Jimmy Carter.

Most vice presidents do not go on to serve as president. With that said, there are a number of former vice presidents that went on to lead the United States.

Biggest Margins of Victory In Presidential Elections

In our last blog post, we discussed some elections that were so close that the candidate who won the popular vote ended up losing the electoral vote. While we all love a tight election, there are many times where the result of the election is all but set in stone well before election day. Whether it was due to the success of the president before them, the state of their party, or the likability of the candidate, there are several factors that go into blowouts in US presidential elections. They don’t happen often, but when they do, there is no question as to who the people have truly chosen as their president.

1) Ronald Reagan, 1980 and 1984

There is no question that Ronald Reagan is a somewhat polarizing president. On one end, he drastically improved the economic state of the country, and his firm foreign policy stances made him an icon of American strength and prosperity. On the other hand, many Americans felt that Reagan’s economic improvements were only made for the richest of the rich, and his cabinet did nothing to try to improve the lives of minorities and the lower class. While opinions on him are quite divided, his election results were quite the opposite. In 1980, Reagan defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter by 450 electoral votes by winning 489-49. In 1984, Reagan set a record that may never be defeated by winning 525 electoral votes in a landslide victory over his Democratic opponent Walter Mondale.

2) Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

In Roosevelt’s first term, he had some struggles getting the United States out of the Great Depression, which was quite understandable as the country had dug itself quite a ditch. However, many of his programs were picking up steam, and it seemed like things were on the upswing. The automobile and other production industries seemed to be on the upswing. Combine that with the fact that his opponent, Alf Landon, did not campaign heavily and agreed with many of Roosevelt’s policies, and you had a recipe for a landslide. While he did not receive as many electoral votes as Reagan, Roosevelt had the percentage-wise victory in 1936 with 98.49% of the electoral vote.

3) Richard Nixon, 1972

People remember the 1972 election as one full of corruption, intrigue, and scandal. While that is true, it is important to remember how unimportant, and ultimately foolish, all of that was for Nixon’s campaign. After a relatively successful first term, Nixon appeared to be on cruise control to another term as president. His opponent, George McGovern, had to replace his Vice Presidential running mate, which helped Nixon grab 49 states and 520 electoral votes.

All in all, elections can become huge blowouts if the right chips fall into place. It will be interesting to see how elections shake out in the future, but for now, watch this video to learn more about past elections.

Presidents Who Lost The Popular Vote

The United States’ election system can be described as flawed at best. While the voice of the people is often heard, there have been a handful of times throughout history where the candidate with the most “popular votes,” which is the amount of votes casted, actually loses. This is because the US uses an electoral college, which groups voters into different counties and counts votes on a county-by-county and state-by-state basis, as opposed to simply choosing the candidate with the most votes. While it is a rare occurrence, here are some of the presidents who won the election while losing the popular vote.

1.Donald Trump

Donald Trump took the country by storm with his “Make America Great Again” campaign, which was an extremely polarizing tactic that made Americans either love him or hate him. He won the electoral college relatively convincingly (304-227), but those numbers don’t tell the whole story. In terms of the popular vote, Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by over 2.9 Million votes. That is largely in part due to Clinton’s dominance in New York and California, where the extra voters she received didn’t mean much, as she won convincingly in places she would have won anyway. Trump’s campaign focused on swing states, and it showed.

2. George Bush

The 2000 election was a crazy one, as many people went to sleep on Election Day thinking that Al Gore was going to be the next president of the United States. This race was much closer than Trump/Clinton in many respects, as Bush barely won the electoral vote (271-266), though Al Gore “only” won the popular vote by 565,000 votes. Gore ordered a recount on certain balloting stations where no votes were recorded due to “hanging chads” (ballots that were not fully punched), but was not granted such. Due to this, Bush was declared the president despite losing the popular vote.

3. John Quincy Adams

If you thought the Bush or Trump elections were unfair, wait until you hear about how John Quincy Adams was elected president. Andrew Jackson won the popular vote and the electoral vote, but he did not receive the amount of electoral votes needed to win the presidency. So, the decision was in the hands of the House of Representatives, who voted Adams into office. This is a firm reminder that, even if a candidate loses both the electoral and popular vote, the presidential race is not over until a president is declared.

What Countries Don’t Have An Embassy in The US?

Embassies are a declaration of mutual acceptance and play a major role in international politics.

The US is home to countless embassies, but it’s important to recognize the nations who don’t have an embassy in the US. The reasons vary with each nation, but it provides an incredible look into the world of politics and how various heads of state don’t see eye to eye.

Let’s break down each nation that doesn’t have an embassy in the US and why that is the case.

1) Iran

Iran and the US have butted heads for years.

The US hasn’t openly stated it refuses to house Iran’s embassy, but the nation states it is unnecessary and something it refuses to accept. Iran has often stated the US has “illogical” attitudes when it comes to Iran and that region of the world meaning Iran’s embassy doesn’t have a place in the country.

Both nations have also shown signs of displeasure with each other at various times over a range of issues. It is important to note both nations used to have diplomatic relations at one stage, but these were eradicated after Iran made its declaration to avoid housing a US embassy within its borders.

2) North Korea

North Korea and its dictatorship are situated in a political position where they’re in disagreement with most of the world. Their poor relations with the US have been evident since day one. The US has looked to isolate North Korea due to its poor policies, and North Korea has often shown signs of aggression by developing nuclear weapons.

This illustrates why both nations don’t see eye to eye when it comes to embassies.

Still, it is important to note both nations continue to talk and figure things out but nothing has come to fruition.

3) Bhutan

This is a tiny kingdom situated in the Himalayan Mountains.

It doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the US and doesn’t hold such relations with any of the UN’s security council members.

4) Guinea-Bissau

The next entry on this list would be Guinea-Bissau.

This tropical West African nation has gone through several decades of political turmoil with raging civil wars and coups. Due to this reason, the US has never been able to have settled political relations with the region. However, in present time, they have a democratically elected leader, and this has helped initiate talks between both sides.

This may lead to changes in the current setup.

5) Caribbean Islands

What about the Caribbean Islands? These are the tropical regions of Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda; Grenada, and St. Lucia. The reason these islands don’t have an embassy in the region involves not being able to come up with an agreement.

The diplomatic relations are present between the US and these islands, but the final details still have to be etched out. These embassies have been in the work for a while. Experts believe it is a matter of time before the islands have an embassy in the United States of America.

These are the five regions of the world that don’t have an embassy in the US. Some of these nations don’t have embassies due to political reasons while the rest are still figuring things out. In general, the US does have good relations with most of the world and continues to grow its reach.

International politics provide intriguing insight into those who have good relations and those who don’t. Embassies are an extension of this and can often provide significant value while figuring out those who are on the same page and those who are not.

List Of Impeached Presidents

Impeachment involves the allowance of formal charges against any standing civil officer (i.e. President) for crimes against the law that they’ve committed.

It’s important to note the impeachment does not include the actual trial for alleged crimes. The House of Representatives can remove the civil officer without a conviction once the vote goes through. Both American examples have displayed this version of impeachment rather than one requested after conviction.

So, what does American history have to suggest about impeachments in its history? There are two examples of successful impeachments in the US.

1) Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson was the 17th US president and remained in office from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869.

His impeachment involved the “Tenure of Office Act” after he removed Edwin McMaster Stanton as the Secretary of War. The premise of this act was to ensure the President didn’t hold additional rights for removing civil officers in key positions such as the one Edwin McMaster Stanton held.

Andrew Johnson was hoping to bring in his preferred choice by the name of Brevet Major General Lorenzo Thomas. Once the news went through, eleven articles of impeachment were pushed against Andrew Johnson in a bid to remove him from office.

It was on March 2, 1868, when the vote went through as intended. It was the first successful impeachment in American history.

2) Bill Clinton

The next impeachment involved President Bill Clinton who remained in office from January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001.

His impeachment involved obstruction of justice and perjury during his sexual harassment trial. All charges began with the charges laid against Bill Clinton while he was in office. He was accused of having an extramarital affair with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. He was also accused of firing White House travel agents, displaying signs of misconduct during the trial, and misuse of FBI files for personal gains. These accusations were placed after an independent counsel investigated the claims.

Two charges against the President (perjury and obstruction of justice) were accepted and became the reason for his impeachment. The house of representatives was able to get two-thirds of the votes needed to impeach him for his actions.

As for the trial, he was able to get acquitted on all charges including the sexual harassment claims made by Monica Lewinsky at the time.

3) Richard Nixon

The final case of impeachment is one which didn’t go through as the previous two.

Richard Nixon was president of the United States and served in office from January 20, 1969 to August 9, 1974.

HIs impeachment stemmed from what began on February 6th, 1974, where he was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors. The “Watergate Scandal” became a popular subject and one which became the reason for his potential removal at the time.

He was accused of managing the break-in at the Watergate office complex (Washington) where the Democratic National Committee sits. He was also accused of attempting to cover-up the details that came out during this scandal.

However, multiple additional cases of abuse of power came to light due to his actions. This meant Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign or he would be impeached from his position as president of the United States.

These are the three leaders in American history who were accused and had to be removed from office due to their alleged actions. While none were convicted, these individuals had elongated investigations against them, and that led to the series of events that occurred.

It is important to note impeachment processes take awhile to unfold, and each one comes with its own nuances.