06 August, 2008

The Candidates and the Thirteenth Amendment

This is the eleventh post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Twelfth Amendment deals with how members of the electoral college should vote for President and Vice-President, and can be ignored in this discussion, I think.

The Thirteenth is another famous one. Here's the text:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Surprisingly, there's quite a bit to discuss pertaining to this amendment.

Starting as usual, with Mr. Obama.

Barack Obama believes that student should perform community service.

The plan Obama outlined in Colorado Springs called for getting middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of community service a year and 100 hours a year for college students.

He said the goals would be achieved by making federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs.

Barack Obama's record on securing the border is not that stellar. NumberUSA gives him a C. Why does this matter? As Glenn Beck first put it and the New York Times has followed up, illegal immigration amounts to "modern day slavery".

One, a Guatemalan named Elmer L. who said he was 16 when he started working on the plant’s killing floors, said he worked 17-hour shifts, six days a week. In an affidavit, he said he was constantly tired and did not have time to do anything but work and sleep. “I was very sad,” he said, “and I felt like I was a slave.”

Obama even is against the types of raids that "freed" Elmer.

I think it's fair to say that the draft amounts to "involuntary servitude", and while many Democrats support it, I can't find that Obama has ever claimed to do so.

Now to McCain.

McCain has strongly encouraged public service throughout his career. However, he has taken care to make a point that people should be doing so out of patriotism, or love of country, not because they're required to do so.

Patriotism is a love and a duty, a love of country expressed in good citizenship.

Patriotism and the citizenship it requires should motivate the conduct of public officials, but it also thrives in the communal spaces where government is absent, anywhere Americans come together to govern their lives and their communities —- in families, churches, synagogues, museums, symphonies, the Little League, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Salvation Army or the VFW. They are the habits and institutions that preserve democracy.

Despite criticism from the Right, McCain's record on securing the border is far better than Obama's. NumbersUSA gives him a B+.

McCain has been vague on immigration raids, saying that they're a "symptom of the problem" and "won't be necessary after his reforms".

McCain has often stated that he's against reinstating the draft, despite the MoveOn.Org ad to the contrary.


Obama: D+. I'm tempted to make this even lower, but he doesn't appear to be for the draft, and one could argue that his service program isn't totally involuntary. One could also argue that putting the illegal immigration topic in a discussion of the Thirteenth Amendment is a stretch.

McCain: B+. There's some reason to claim that this could be even higher, especially if you want to discount his stances on illegal immigrants.

Thirteenth Amendment: Advantage McCain

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B
Seventh Amendment C C
Eighth Amendment C B
Eleventh Amendment B+ B-
Thirteenth Amendment D+ B+

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

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