The Redskins are Deadskins.
Applying the Socratic Method to the Redskins name-controversy –
Q: Why is Washington’s NFL team called “The Redskins?”
A: Obviously they were named by some racist white honkey.
Bzzzzztttt! Wrong answer!
A: In the early days of the NFL, the league’s new teams sometimes took names reminiscent of the pro baseball teams in their city: e.g.,
- Chicago had the Cubs, so their new NFL team became the Bears;
- Detroit had the Tigers baseball team, so their NFL team became the Lions;
- The St. Louis NFL team became the Cardinals, just like their baseball team.
In 1932, the new Boston NFL team became the Braves because that was the name of their National League baseball team. Soon after their founding, the NFL’s Boston Braves became the Boston Redskins. The team moved to Washington, DC, in 1937.
Q: OK, then why were those Boston teams called the Braves? More white racists up there?
A: Not at all. The name was meant to honor the patriots who kicked off the American Revolution. In December 1773, under cover of darkness, a squad of colonists – wearing Indian-style garb and armed with tomahawks – boarded a British ship in Boston Harbor and threw 342 chests of tea overboard. The Boston Tea Party has been symbolized, ever after, by images of those patriots disguised as “Redskins.”
Q: Were the disguises some kind of racist smear?
A: Very doubtful – no more so than kids dressed up like Indian chiefs for Hallowe’en.
Q: Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be better to lose that offensive name?”
A: Offensive to whom? To a bunch of college kids running around, knocking statues over, and trying to erase our cultural symbols? Last I heard, the ‘Skins’ name didn’t seem to bother today’s Native Americans. Where’s the good of eliminating an important symbol of our country’s founding? It sounds like a Tempest in a Teapot.
Q: Point taken. But what about all that tea?
A: As Mr. Banks famously observed, “The tea was made undrinkable, even for Americans.” And there is no record of any Native American tribe having a taste for British tea – either hot or iced.
Q: Could a change of the name be made that wouldn’t offend anyone either way?
A: Possibly so. The Hopis are a famous Indian tribe of our Southwest. Some have suggested that calling the team the Washington Hopis would still honor Native Americans, while expressing the meaningful sentiment – especially in Washington – that “Hopi springs eternal.” (Just sayin’)
Early Boston Redskins
In recent weeks the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives created a stir by passing a controversial bill which authorized a radical restructuring of the District of Columbia:
- The Federal District of Columbia – specified by Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U. S. Constitution – would be reduced to a small area which contains Federal monuments, the White House, the Capitol Building, the United States Supreme Court Building, and the federal executive, legislative, and judicial office buildings close to the National Mall.
- The balance of the current District of Columbia’s land would be admitted to the Union as the 51st state, to be called “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.”
The bill’s passage evoked wild cheering from Democrat-partisans, since the new state would almost certainly add a Democrat representative to the House, plus two Democrats to the Senate. And it would add three new Democrat electors to the Electoral College.
Political analysts quickly noted, however, that the Republican-controlled Senate would not support the bill, and the president would certainly veto it. Republicans breathed a collective sigh of relief for having dodged a dangerous political “bullet.” But Democrats warned that they will get it done after they win the Congress and presidency in November.
The issue of making the District of Columbia into a new state, however, is not quite as simple as shooting a bill through the Congress and having the president sign it. A little historical background is needed, starting with Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution: i.e.,
“Congress shall have power: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.”
The plan was to create a federal district no more than ten miles square from land ceded by one or more states to house the U.S. national capital. This was accomplished by the Compromise of 1790, which formed the District of Columbia from land ceded by Maryland and Virginia. The national capital was temporarily relocated from New York to Philadelphia while construction began on homes for the president and the Congress. In December 1800 the US capital was moved for the final time to Washington, DC. The new District of Columbia was a square, ten miles on a side, oriented as a diamond with its northern and southern vertexes located on the same line of longitude.
In the 1840s the state of Virginia petitioned the federal government for return of the portion of land which Virginia had ceded for the District of Columbia, as it was not being used for governmental purposes. That land was retroceded in March 1847 and became Arlington County, Virginia. The Potomac River became the new southwest boundary of DC.
The Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to reduce the area of the Federal district, as it did in 1847. But should it do so, that land would go back to Maryland, which originally owned it. Congress has no power to create a new state from territory of an existing state by simply passing legislation. Citizens of an existing state may vote to split off part of their territory to form a new state, as western counties of Virginia did in 1863. Those counties became West Virginia, after Congress voted to admit them into the Union.
The “secession” of West Virginia from the Confederacy was useful to the Union during the Civil War. But today, a similar action by an existing state – e.g., Maryland – would be intensely political and fraught with contentious partisanship. Past Congressional votes to admit new states were unanimous, or nearly so,1 but a vote to admit a new, city-sized state which had formerly been the District of Columbia would spark the Mother of all political battles for both parties.
If successful, such a ploy would open the floodgates to similar efforts all over the country, as numerous states might attempt to multiply their Congressional and electoral influence by splitting themselves into several new states. To say it would end the United States as we know it would be an understatement. It would be a nightmare. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: Like a fire-bell in the night, it would wake us and fill us with terror.
Any change to the Constitution to modify the protocol for admitting new states – an idea also being bandied about – would be a steep uphill climb. A Constitutional amendment requires a 2/3 majority vote in each house of Congress, plus subsequent approval by 38 of the 50 states within the time-limit, if any, established by the Congress. Adopting an amendment which changed the rules for adopting new amendments would be a political impossibility, as ¾ of the states would never approve it.
Getting access to the president’s tax-records.
The latest hot topic in the “we’ve got Trump now” vein is a ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court which seems to indicate that the president cannot withhold his personal financial records, including tax returns, from prosecutors who are pressing a “criminal case.” There’s some fine print in the ruling, but it seems to say that a prosecutor can obtain a subpoena from a judge which orders the president to turn over his financial records.
This ruling is being hailed as the “silver bullet” which will finally make Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial records available for publication – probably via leakage to the media. Democrats believe those records will so offend the public – mainly by the size of Mr. Trump’s income – that many of his supporters will abandon him. Even if those records don’t defeat the president in November, his enemies expect that the criminal proceedings for which the records are obtained will lead to Mr. Trump’s arrest, conviction and expulsion from office.
All this is wonderful material for a three-pipe night at a Democratic opium den, but it has no Constitutional basis. “Separation of powers” means that:
- The Congress cannot order the president to do anything while he is in office; (they can order, but he doesn’t have to obey);
- Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court-level can order the president to do anything while he is in office; (they can issue orders, including subpoenas, but he can ignore them);
- The president cannot order either the Congress or any court to do anything; (ditto – he can issue orders, but they can make rude noises with their armpits and do nothing);
- No level of law-enforcement or jurisprudence can arrest, detain, or try a sitting president;
- Court or Congressional offices may not be invaded or searched by the president’s law-enforcement agents.
The Constitution does give some of the branches certain powers over the other branches:
- The Supreme Court can decide whether a law enacted by Congress and the president is Constitutional or not; if the Court says no, the president may not enforce the law.
- The Congress may fence off particular areas of law from the Supreme Court’s purview;
- The House of Representatives may impeach the president or any sitting federal judge at any level, including the Supreme Court;
- The Senate tries the impeached official as prescribed by the Constitution; a 2/3 vote for conviction removes the official from office;
- The Senate has the power to approve or disapprove any nominee put forward by the president for a cabinet or judicial office;
- Each house of Congress may impose its own rules of conduct and operation without interference from the other house, or from either the courts or the executive;
- The president may issue executive orders as he sees fit;
- The Supreme Court may decide whether such orders are Constitutional;
- The president may cancel any executive order issued by a previous president;
- The Congress may overturn any presidential executive order by ordinary legislative protocol; the president can veto such legislation; and the Congress can override his veto by a 2/3 vote in each house.
I list the foregoing because there seems to be widespread misunderstanding today about who can take what action against the president. The idea that any court can “order” the president to do anything is especially alarming. Where did we get such a notion? It has never been our practice. Should it gain currency, any president could be subjected to a constant blizzard of demands from prosecutors all over the country for every possible financial or business datum. As the Declaration of Independence put it: ‘an army of agents would be sent to harass him and eat out his substance.’ It would render any president incapable of executing his office.
This might sound great to Mr. Trump’s opponents, who hope to achieve that very result, but they are not thinking clearly about the future. When their party or faction has put a man (or woman) in the White House, do they really think their scorched-earth strategy of unending subpoenas and indictments will be quietly retired so their president can govern decently and in good order?
This is a delusion of the first order. The opposition’s treatment of any president becomes the model for how future presidents of either party will be treated. Partisans who think it’s great fun to kick the other party’s guy around can expect their guy to get the same treatment. This is not our governing “compact,” and it is not the responsible behavior of a free people. Let’s hope we can come to our senses before it’s too late.
- On March 11, 1959: the Senate voted 75-15 to admit Alaska as the 49th state; the House approved the admittance by 323 to 89 on March 12, 1959. A bill to dissolve the Territory of Hawaii and admit it as the 50th state was enacted by Congress in March 1959 and signed by President Eisenhower. Hawaii became a state on August 21, 1959.