Mount Rushmore photoshopped to be colorful

Image, Dave Gostisha

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​                                   ​The Constitution and Politics



                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Constitution addresses speech in two clauses (see                                                                     Enforcement and the Rights of Government Officers for                                                                     more on the Speech or Debate clause). 

                                                   

   Amendment I:                                         

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, 

                                           or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;                     

or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;             

                                                 or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,              

and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."      

                                         

                                                         Article I, Section 6 states that                              

                                                                               "for any Speech or Debate in either House,                   

they shall not be questioned in any other Place."                

But the Constitution sets rules for establishing government

in numerous other clauses.

At least six of the original twenty-four sections of the Constitution

discuss the political process in some way,

and eleven of the twenty-seven amendments involve it.


Article I, Section 4:

"The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,

shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof;

but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations,

except as to the Place of Choosing Senators." 

Article IV, Section 4:

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government,"


In a republican form of government power rests with citizens who vote for representatives, including a president. In a pure democracy citizens vote on measures directly.

Article IV, Section 4 requires the United States government to preserve the voters' ability to freely choose our representatives in state and United States government with power granted in Article I, Section 4.

Article 2, Section 2 addresses presidential appointments. And Article I, Section 7 regulates Congress' manner of passing bills and addressing measures the President brings them.

But the electorate's gathering of information to decide whether a candidate or bill or any political thing is in our best interest has barely been addressed in the Constitution. 


  • Both Houses must keep journals of their proceedings and publish them regularly. 


Article I, Section 5:

"Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same,

excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy;

and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall,

at the Desire of one-fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal."


  • They must publish statements and accounts regarding public money.


Article I, Section 9:

"[A] regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money

shall be published from time to time."


While the Constitution doesn't expect the public to need to know about Congress' proceedings urgently, then, it does anticipate that the public will need self-governance information regularly, and assigns the United States the obligation of providing it. 


  • The House's debates have been reported by news media daily from the start, but the Senate met in closed session until 1794. The only sources of information on Senate meetings were their own publicly-funded journals, statements and accounts. 
  • The law, executive agency material and judicial opinions, as well as Congress' own required publications are published by the United States Government Printing Office (GPO, under Congress), sometimes in cooperation with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA, under the Executive).
  • The Federal Register, a daily publication of NARA, also prints laws, parts of floor speeches and debates, selected letters to Congress and similar material.


These journals and other materials are publicly funded.The Constitution doesn't delegate to the private sector the provision of self-governance information to the public. But it does protect the public's civil liberties, which include self-governance information.


Amendment XIV, section 2:

'No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities

of citizens of the United States; [...]"


That's as much as the Constitution addresses directly. The provision of other self-governance information to the public probably wasn't considered worrisome enough to the people's interests to be addressed in 1787. The first two Presidents didn't campaign at all, as it was considered inappropriate. They stood for offices, they didn’t run for them. Laws and rulings gradually diverged from this.