MetroFocus

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METROFOCUS: January 19, 2021

To help raise awareness, Federal Hall history advisor and author Sam Roberts, CNN Senior Political Analyst and author of “Washington’s Farewell” John Avlon, and constitutional and election law expert and Vice-Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs at USC School of Law Professor Franita Tolson join us for this look at the “New Day At Federal Hall” project.

AIRED: January 19, 2021 | 0:28:20
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> THIS IS "METROFOCUS" WITH

RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND

JENNA FLANAGAN.

"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG

AND BY JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN

FAMILY

JUDY AND JOSH WESTON

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

FOUNDATION

>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO

THIS SPECIAL EDITION OF

"METROFOCUS," I'M RAFAEL PI

ROMAN.

WITH JOE BIDEN'S INAUGURATION

THIS WEEK, WE THOUGHT WE WOULD

LOOK BACK ON THE TRADITION.

IT WAS RIGHT HERE AT NEW YORK

CITY'S FEDERAL HALL THAT

PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON TOOK

THE FIRST OATH OF OFFICE AND

DELIVERED HIS FIRST INAUGURAL

ADDRESS BACK IN 1789.

MANY NEW YORKERS HAVE FORGOTTEN

OR NEVER KNOWN AS FEDERAL HALL'S

ROLE IN THE BIRTH OF OUR

CONSTITUTIONAL REP AL REPUBLIC.

BUT THERE IS A PUSH TO BRIDGE

THAT GAP IN OUR KNOWLEDGE, AT

THE SAME TIME PRESENTING THE

STORY OF OUR NATION IN A MORE

AUTHENTIC WAY.

THE PROJECT IS CALLED NEW DAY AT

FEDERAL HALL, AND TO HELP RAISE

AWARENESS ABOUT IT, THE NATIONAL

PARKS OF NEW YORK HARBOR C

CONSERVANCY IS HOSTING A PROGRAM

CALLED DEBATE DEFENSE DEMOCRACY.

HERE'S A LOOK.

>> THE FRAMERS OF THE

CONSTITUTION ESTABLISHED THE

ROLE OF THE PRESIDENT, BUT THEY

PROVIDED FEW GUIDELINES FOR THE

INAUGURATION AND CONDUCT OF THE

PRESIDENCY.

WASHINGTON HAD NO FOOTSTEPS TO

FOLLOW, YET HE LEVEL SOME BIG

SHOES TO FILL.

HE ESTABLISHED WHAT BECAME

LONG-STANDING PRESIDENTIAL

TRADITIONS, BEGINNING WITH OUR

NATION'S FIRST INAUGURAL

CEREMONY.

AS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE NEW

DEMOCRACY, WHEN KINGS AND

EMPERORS RULED THE WORLD, HE SET

THE TONE BY CHOOSING TO WEAR A

SIMPLE BROWN AMERICAN-MADE SUIT.

AT THE LAST MINUTE, A BIBLE WAS

BORROWED FROM ST. JOHN'S LODGE

SO HE COULD PLACE HIS HAND ON IT

AT THE SWEARING IN.

WASHINGTON TYPICALLY KEPT HIS

OPINIONS TO HIMSELF, BUT HE HAD

DRAFTED A 73-PAGE INAUGURAL

ADDRESS THAT EXPLICITLY EXPLORED

SOME STILL VOLATILE ISSUES.

WHEN JAMES MADISON CAUTIONED HIM

THAT THE IDEAS IN THE SPEECH FOR

CONTENTIOUS, WASHINGTON

DELIVERED A SIMPLIFIED VERSION.

THE UNDELIVERED ADDRESS HAD BEEN

LARGELY LOST TO HISTORY UNTIL

RECENTLY.

THE FRAMERS ALSO DIDN'T

ESTABLISH HOW LONG A PRESIDENT

COULD SERVE, BUT WASHINGTON DID

NOT WANT TO REPLICATE THE

MONARCHY, SO HE RETIRED AFTER

TWO TERMS.

THIS TRADITION WAS FOLLOWED

UNTIL FDR'S PRESIDENCY DURING

WORLD WAR II.

IT BECAME LAW WITH THE 22nd

AMENDMENT IN 1951.

IN HIS FAREWELL ADDRESS,

WASHINGTON WARNED THAT SECTIONAL

DIVIDES, POLITICAL PARTISANSHIP

AND INTERFERENCE BY FOREIGN

POWERS IN THE NATION'S DOMESTIC

AFFAIRS COULD THREATEN THE

STABILITY OF THE REPUBLIC.

HE URGED AMERICANS TO PLACE THE

NATIONAL INTEREST AHEAD OF PARTY

LOYALTY.

IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE

CONSTITUTION, THE FIRST

PRES

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORS CAST THEIR

VOTES AND WASHINGTON WON

UNANIMOUSLY.

NOT ALL ELECTIONS HAVE RUN AS

SMOOTHLY.

THE ELECTION OF THOMAS JEFFERSON

AS AMERICA'S THIRD PRESIDENT WAS

THROWN INTO THE HOUSE OF

REPRESENTATIVES BECAUSE HE

DIDN'T SECURE A MAJORITY OF

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES.

IT TOOK 36 BALLOTS FOR JEFFERSON

TO WIN.

ALMOST A CENTURY LATER, THE

HAYES ELECTION WAS MARKED BY

WIDESPREAD VOTER FRAUD AND

SUPPRESSION OF THE BLACK VOTE.

A CONTROVERSIAL CONGRESSIONAL

RULING GAVE HAYES THE WIN.

HOW COULD SUCH TURMOIL BE

POSSIBLE?

WELL, THE CONSTITUTION GIVES THE

STATES RESPONSIBILITY FOR

ELECTIONS, BUT IT PROVIDES SCANT

DIRECTION.

THE RESULT?

A PATCHWORK OF 50 DIFFERENT

SYSTEMS AND ROOM FOR ARGUMENT

ABOUT WHAT'S FAIR.

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE SOMETIMES

AT ODDS WITH THE POPULAR VOTE

HAS ALSO CREATED THIS.

THE LOSER ISN'T REQUIRED TO

CONCEDE, BUT SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE

CAN BE DONE WHEN THEY DON'T.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN WON A FOUR-WAY

CONTEST, BUT SOME OF HIS RIVALS

NEVER ACKNOWLEDGED DEFEAT,

DELEGITIMIZING HIS WIN.

AS A RESULT, SEVEN STATES

SECEDED FROM THE UNION AND

TRIGGERED THE CIVIL WAR.

MODERN COMMUNICATIONS AND TRAVEL

MADE A LONG TRANSITION BETWEEN

THE NOVEMBER ELECTION AND MARCH

INAUGURATION LESS NECESSARY.

HERBERT HOOVER AND

PRESIDENT-ELECT FRANKLIN

ROOSEVELT HAD VASTLY DIFFERENT

POLICIES FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY

AND PROVED UNABLE TO WORK

TOGETHER.

MEANWHILE, THE NATION'S ECONOMY

TEATERED.

SOON AFTER FDR'S INAUGURATION,

THE 20th AMENDMENT WAS RATIFIED,

MOVING INAUGURATION DATE UP TO

JANUARY 20th.

CONGRESS IN 1963 LEGISLATED A

FRAMEWORK FOR MORE ORDERLY

TRANSFER OF POWER.

>>> AND JOINING ME NOW TO

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION AND

PUT THE INAUGURATION IN

PERSPECTIVE ARE SAM ROBERTS,

VETERAN "NEW YORK TIMES"

REPORTER, AUTHOR AND HISTORY

ADVISER FOR FEDERAL HALL.

JOHN AVLON, COLUMNIST AND SENIOR

POLITICAL ANALYST AT CNN AND THE

AUTHOR OF SEVERAL BOOKS

INCLUDING "WASHINGTON'S

FAREWELL."

AND FRANITA TOLSON, VICE DEAN

FOR FACULTY AND ACADEMIC AFFAIRS

AND PROFESSOR OF LAW AT THE

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SCHOOL

OF LAW, WHO FOCUSES ON

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW.

WELCOME, ALL OF YOU.

PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU GUYS HERE.

>> GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

>> THANK YOU.

>> SAM, LET ME START WITH YOU,

AS I OFTEN TDO, AND COULD YOU

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT FEDERAL

HALL?

CAN YOU ELABORATE ON WHAT I SAID

IN THE INTRODUCTION ABOUT ITS

HISTORY?

>> IT'S CALLED A NATIONAL

MEMORIAL, RAF, BUT IN FACT, AS

FAULKNER SAID, THE PAST ISN'T

DEAD, IT'S NOT EVEN PAST.

THIS IS ABOUT CIVIC AND CIVIL

ENGA

ENGAGEMENT.

IT CONTEXTUALIZES EVENTS TO SHOW

WHAT HAPPENED, DURING, AS YOU

SAID, THOSE 531 DAYS WHEN NEW

YORK WAS THE NATION'S CAPITAL.

AND 230 YEARS LATER, WE'RE STILL

STRUGGLING TO FULFILL THE

CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGES OF

CIVIL LIBERTIES, EQUAL

OPPORTUNITIES, STATE'S RIGHTS,

SEPARATION OF POWERS, ALL OF

WHICH WERE FIRST DEFINED,

DEBATED, DENIED, DEFERRED BY THE

FOUNDERS AT FEDERAL HALL.

THEY STARTED WITH A BLANK SLATE,

THEY MOVED INTO IS WHAT USED TO

BE THE CITY HALL.

IT WAS CONVERTED TO FEDERAL HALL

ON WALL STREET AND THEY HAD TO

WORK WITH 4,500 WORLDS OF THE

CONSTITUTION THAT NEVER

MENTIONED THE WORD DEMOCRACY.

THEY HAD TO CREATE THE BRANCHES

OF GOVERNMENT FROM THIS

BLUEPRINT.

THE FIRST INAUGURATION WAS

SCHEDULED FOR EARLY MARCH, BUT

IT RAINED A LOT AND THEY HAD

TROUBLE GETTING TO NEW YORK,

THEY HAD TROUBLE GETTING

DECORUM.

AND FINALLY, WASHINGTON WAS

INAUGURATED ON APRIL 30th.

HE CAME TO NEW YORK, OF COURSE,

ON HORSEBACK.

THE CITY WAS STILL RECOVERS FROM

SEVEN YEARS OF BRUTAL BRITISH

OCCUPATION.

AND WASHINGTON CAME TO NEW YORK,

WE FORGET THIS, COMING TO NEW

YORK WITH MORE SLAVES THAT HE

HAD AT MT. VERNON THAN HE HAD

FEDERAL EMPLOYEES IN NEW YORK.

HE HAD NO FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW

AND ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THEY

HAD TO DEAL WITH WAS WHAT TO

CALL THE PRESIDENT.

HIS EXCELLENCY, HIS MAJESTY.

WELL, WASHINGTON IN PART SOLVED

THAT FOR STHEM, BY WEARING A

PLAIN BROWN SUIT, SO, THEY

CALLED HIM MR. PRESIDENT.

SOMEBODY FORGOT THE BIBLE, SO,

THEY HAD TO RUN DOWN TO A

MASONIC LODGE TO GET A BIBLE.

AND WHAT'S FASCINATING, TOO,

QUICKLY, ABOUT THAT SWEARING IN

IS WHAT WASHINGTON DIDN'T SAY.

THE UNDELIVERED INAUGURAL

ADDRESS.

73 PAGES LONG.

JAMES MADISON SORT OF FORBAD HIM

FROM DELIVERING IT, SAYING NOT

ONLY WAS IT TOO LONG, BUT IT WAS

TOO SPECIFIC.

AND WASHINGTON, WHO ALWAYS

PLAYED THINGS TOO CLOSE TO THE

VEST, IN THIS SPEECH, SAID A LOT

OF THINGS THAT MADISON SAID,

DON'T SAY, YOU'RE COMMITTING

YOURSELF TO TOO MANY THINGS,

IT'S TOO EARLY IN YOUR

ADMINISTRATION TO DO THAT AND WE

ARE STILL TRYING TO PUT TOGETHER

REMNANTS OF THAT SPEECH AND FIND

OUT WHAT WASHINGTON REALLY

MEANT.

>> YOU KNOW, JOHN, AS I

MENTIONED IN THE INTRODUCTION,

THE SERIES OF CONVERSATIONS

CALLED DEBATE DEFENSE DEMOCRACY

IS ONE OF THE FEATURES OF THE

RENOVATION OF FEDERAL HALL.

YOU MODERATED THE LAST

CONVERSATION AS YOU HAVE BEFORE.

TALK ABOUT THE THEMES OF THIS

LAST CONVERSATION AND WHAT YOU

HOPE YOUR VIEWERS WOULD TAKE OUT

OF IT.

>> SURE.

WELL, I THINK WHAT DEFEND DEFEND

DEMOCRACY HAS DONE, IT

HIGHLIGHTS WHAT A ROLE IN COME

PEOPLE PRAYER PLACE HAS IN

CURRENT EVENTS.

IT IS AVAILABLE TO MANY MORE

PEOPLE THAN WOULD FIT IN THE

PHYSICAL SPACE DOING IT ON ZOOM,

WHICH WAS THE CASE IN OUR LAST

DEBATE, OVER 1,000 PEOPLE SIGNED

UP AND IT WAS AIRED ALSO ON

C-SPAN.

BUT THAT IDEA ABOUT DEBATE

DEFENDING DEMOCRACY IS SO KEY,

BECAUSE DEMOCRACY IS ABOUT

REASONING TOGETHER.

THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE DON'T

DISAGREE.

WE SHOULD DISAGREE, BUT WE

SHOULD HAVE PRINCIPLES

DISAGREEMENTS AND FACT-BASED

DEBATES.

AND I THINK -- AND UNDERSTAND

HOW MUCH OF OUR CURRENT DEBATES

ARE NECESSARILY ROOTED IN

HISTORY.

AND INSTEAD, I THINK, YOU KNOW,

POLITICS TODAY, PERSPECTIVE IS

THE THING WE HAVE LEAST OF.

AND THAT'S A REAL PROBLEM.

WE HAVE FALLEN DEEPLY BEHIND IN

CIVIC HISTORY, IN CIVIC

EDUCATION.

AND SO, SOME OF OUR MUSCLE

MEMORY AS CITIZENS ATROPHIES AND

PEOPLE ARE EASILY ENFLAMED TO

THESE EXTREME OPINIONS AND

PROJECT ALL SORTS OF THEIR OWN

BAGGAGE ON OUR HISTORY AND RUSH

TO THE RAMPARTS VERY QUICKLY AND

DEMONIZE PEOPLE THEY DISAGREE

WITH.

THAT'S NOT WHAT IT IS ABOUT.

WE NEED TO HAVE THE CIVIC

DEBATES ROOTED IN HISTORY,

UNDERSTANDING OUR INHERENT

HISTORIC IMPERFECTIONS THAT

WE'RE ALWAYS FIGHTING TO FORM A

MORE PERFECT UNION.

THERE'S NO MYTHIC IDEAL PATH IN

THE COUNTRY, FAR FROM IT, THAT

WE'RE ALL, IN OUR OWN WAY,

IMPERFECT PEOPLE STRUGGLING TO

FORM A MORE PERFECT UNION, BUT

WE WERE ABLE TO TRACK SMART

PEOPLE, REPRESENTING DIFFERENT

AREAS OF EXPERTISE, TO HAVE THAT

CONVERSATION, TO RIFF OFF WHAT'S

GOING IN CURRENT EVENTS BUT TO

BE ABLE TO TAKE IT DEEPER AND

THAT'S ONE OF THE KEY

OPPORTUNITIES.

IT'S NOT A FIVE-MINUTE SEGMENT.

IT'S AN HOUR-LONG THOUGHTFUL

CONVERSATION, AND SO YOU GET

PEOPLE LIKE FRANITA COME IN AND

OFFER THEIR EXPERTISE ON SOME OF

THE QUESTIONS WE'RE DEBATING IN

REAL-TIME RIGHT NOW.

THAT ADDS A LOT OF LIGHT WHERE

TOO OFTEN THERE'S JUST A LOT OF

HEAT.

>> YEAH.

REAL QUICKLY, JOHN, BEFORE WE GO

TO THE PROFESSOR, LET'S TALK

ABOUT THE HISTORY OF --

HISTORICAL MEMORY THAT INFORMS

THE CHAOS AND THE CRISIS THAT

WE'VE ENCOUNTERED IN THIS

PARTICULAR PRESIDENTIAL

TRANSITION.

YOU KNOW, ASIDE FROM THE CIVIL

WAR, LINCOLN'S FIRST

INAUGURATION WHERE SEVEN STATES

HAD ALREADY LEFT THE UNION BY

THE TIME HE SPOKE, ARE THERE

PRESIDENTS FOR THE KIND OF

CRISIS THAT WE SAW, THAT WE'RE

SEEING?

>> WELL, PRECEDENCE.

WELL LOOK, CERTAINLY, WE IN OUR

COUNTRY HAVE BEEN THROUGH A

NUMBER OF TIMES WHERE WE HAVE

BEEN DEEPLY DIVIDED.

THE CIVIL WAR MOST STARKLY,

WHERE THE PRESIDENT HAS TO COME

IN AND TRY TO FORGE COMMON

GROUND.

BUT OBVIOUSLY, YOU KNOW, FIRST

OF ALL, WE ARE NOT IN A CIVIL

WAR, BUT CRUCIALLY MANY OF THE

LEGACIES OF THE CIVIL WAR PLAY

OUT IN POLITICS TO THIS DAY.

AND THAT'S WHY IT'S SO IMPORTANT

TO UNDERSTAND HISTORY, NOT JUST

THE CIVIL WAR, BUT THE FAILURES

OF RECONSTRUCTION AND THE WAY

THAT THAT ALL CARRIES FORWARD

INTO OUR POLITICAL FAULT LINES

TODAY.

SOMETIMES EVEN UNCONSCIOUSLY,

BUT AS PRESIDENT BIDEN BEGINS

HIS ADMINISTRATION, HE HAS

HISTORY TO DRAW ON.

AND INDEED HE DID SO IN THE

CAMPAIGN, YOU KNOW, HIS TWO

GREATEST SPEECHES OF HIS

CAMPAIGN, TO MY MIND, ONE WAS

GIVEN AT GETTYSBURG WITH VERY

OVERT ECHOES OF LINCOLN AND THE

CHALLENGE OF COMING, OF

REUNITING A COUNTRY DIVIDED AND

THE OTHER AT WARM SPRINGS,

GEORGIA, FDR'S RETREAT, AS HE

RECOVERED FROM POLIO.

SO, HE'S CON VERVE SANT IN THAT

KIND OF HISTORY AND BRINGING IT

TO BEAR.

AND I THINK THAT CAN BE A GREAT

SENSE OF COMFORT TO HIM AND A

STEADYING FORCE FOR THE NATION

AS WE CONFRONT THESE VERY

CONTEMPORARY, SOMETIMES

PERPLEXING AND SOMETIMES

UNPRECEDENTED CHALLENGES RIGHT

NOW.

>> PROFESSOR, ARE THERE LEGAL

AND MAYBE CONSTITUTIONAL

MEASURES THAT WE CAN TAKE TO

MAKE SURE THAT THE CHAOS AND THE

CRISIS THAT WE'RE EXPERIENCING

DURING THIS ELECTION AND THIS

TRANSITION, WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN?

>> TO SOME EXTENT, I THINK SOME

OF THE EVENTS THAT WE'VE SEEN IN

THE PAST FEW WEEKS HAVE TAKEN US

BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES OF LAW.

I KNOW WE LIKE TO THINK ABOUT

HOW LAW CAN FIX THIS, BUT A LOT

OF THIS HAS TO DO WITH THE

FAILURE OF CIVIC EDUCATION IN

THIS COUNTRY.

PEOPLE JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND THE

PROCESS.

SO, WHEN POLITICAL ELITES

MISRESPECT WHAT IT TAKES TO BE

PRESIDENT AND HOW OUR ELECTIONS

WORK, THEY ARE RECEPTIVE TO THE

MESSAGE BECAUSE THEY DON'T

SIMPLY KNOW ANY BETTER.

BUT THERE ARE A FEW THINGS AND,

YOU KNOW, THIS IS ANOTHER PLACE

WHERE THERE WILL BE A LOT OF

DISAGREEMENT.

FOR EXAMPLE, I THINK IT'S

IMPORTANT WE SHORTEN THE LAME

DUCK PERIOD.

I KNOW THAT'S CONTROVERSIAL,

BECAUSE THAT'S THE PERIOD WHERE

THE NEW GOVERNMENT CAN GET UP

AND RUNNING AND IT IS IMPORTANT

FOR THAT REASON, BUT, YOU KNOW,

IF WE ELECT THE WRONG PEOPLE TO

THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT AND

THE PRESIDENT APPOINTS PEOPLE

WHO, IN THE CABINET POSITIONS,

WHO WILL NOT HOLD HIM

ACCOUNTABLE AND WE HAVE A

CONGRESS WHO DOESN'T HOLD THE

PRESIDENT ACCOUNTABLE, THEN I

THINK THE LAME DUCK PERIOD CAN

ALSO BE A TIME IN WHICH THERE IS

A LOT OF CHAOS AND UPHEAVAL.

AND SO I THINK THERE HAS TO BE

SOME WAY TO BALANCE THE EQUITIES

THERE, BECAUSE ONE OF THE

LESSONS OF THE LAST FEW WEEKS IS

THAT WE HAD A MASSIVE HUMAN

RESOURCES PROBLEM, RIGHT?

WE HAD A PRESIDENT WHO WAS

CHALLENGING ELECTION RESULTS, AN

ELECTION THAT HE CLEARLY LOST,

ENGAGING IN RHETORIC THAT

ULTIMATELY HAS THE EFFECT OF

ENFLAMING HIS FOLLOWERS TO

CHARGE THE CAPITOL.

AND SO, I THINK THAT THERE ARE

STEPS THAT WE CAN TAKE FROM A

LEGAL PERSPECTIVE, BUT I THINK

IN TERMS OF, LIKE, GETTING AT

THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM, THE

PATHOLOGY IS GOING TO RUN MUCH

DEEPER THAN LAW, BECAUSE A LOT

OF THE EVENTS OF THE LAST FEW

WEEKS ARE NOT REALLY LEGAL

PROBLEMS, THESE ARE CULTURAL AND

POLITICAL PROBLEMS.

>> WE'LL GET TO THAT IN A

SECOND, LET'S STAY WITH THE LAW.

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, LESS THAN

A WEEK, SEEMS LIKE YEARS AGO, I

DID A SEGMENT WITH MY COHOST

JACK FORD ABOUT THE OBJECTIONS

THAT REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS HAD

TO THE CERTIFICATION OF THE

ELECTORAL VOTE COUNT.

I HAVE TO CONFESS, THAT WAS THE

FIRST TIME THAT I EVER KNEW THAT

THERE WERE OBJECTIONS BEFORE.

MUCH LESS THAN EVER SINCE 2000,

THE DEMOCRATS HAD OBJECTED TO

EVERY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WON

BY REPUBLICANS AND IN 2005,

BECAUSE THEY HAD THE SUPPORT OF

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR BARBARA

BOXER, THEY WERE ABLE TO STOP

THE COUNT AND HAVE DEBATES JUST

LIKE THEY DID THIS TIME.

STLP A PLACE WHERE LEGALLY WE

CAN GO AND REVISIT?

BECAUSE IT CLEARLY SEEMS TO BE,

TO OPEN ITSELF UP FOR POLITICAL

MIS

MISCHIEF.

IS THERE SOMETHING WE CAN CHANGE

ABOUT THAT, THAT WE SHOULD

CHANGE ABOUT THAT?

>> THE ELECTORAL COUNT ACT IS

THE PROVISION THAT ALLOWS FOR

OBJECTIONS, IT SORT OF GOVERNS

THIS PROCESS.

IF YOU HAVE A SENATOR AND A

REPRESENTATIVE LAUNCH AN

OBJECTION, EACH CHAMBER GOES FOR

TWO HOURS OF DEBATE AND THEN

THEY COME BACK AND VOTE ON THE

OBJECTION.

I DON'T KNOW IF THERE'S

SOMETHING WRONG WITH THAT

PROCESS.

THERE'S A LOT WRONG WITH THE ECK

LEG TOMORROW COUNT ACT, IT'S

WRITTEN VERY POORLY, THERE'S A

LOT OF AM BIGUITY WITH THE

STATUTE.

IS THE PROBLEM THAT PEOPLE

OBJECTED?

EVEN IN THIS CONTEXT, YOU HAVE

IMAGINE HAVING OBJECTIONS TO THE

WAY STATES HAVE PRESENTED THEIR

ELECTORS.

AND IN FACT ELECTORAL COUNT ACT

HAS A PROCESS IN PLACE TO

FACILITATE THOSE OBJECTIONS.

BUT I THINK THE PROBLEM WITH

THOSE OBJECTIONS WAS THE CONTEXT

WHERE THE OBJECTIONS WERE

HAPPENING.

YOU HAD MONTHS OF RHETORIC

CALLING INTO QUESTION THE

ELECTION OUTCOME AND THEN YOU

HAD PEOPLE IN CONGRESS USING

OFFICIAL CHANNELS IN ORDER TO

FURTHER SHED DOUBT ON THE

OUTCOME OF THE ELECTION, RIGHT?

SO, I THINK IN TIMES OF

POLARIZATION THAT THAT

PARTICULAR FRAMEWORK CAN BE

PROBLEMATIC IN A WAY THAT MAY

NOT BE TRUE IN OTHER TIMES.

SO, I'M NOT SURE IF THE FIX IS,

OKAY, LET'S MAKE IT SO THAT NO

ONE CAN OBJECT.

TO SOME EXTENT, ALSO KEEP IN

MIND, THE ELECTORAL COUNT ACT

SAYS IF A STATE CERTIFIES THEIR

SLATE OF ELECTORS BY A CERTAIN

DATE, WHICH WAS DECEMBER th THIS

YEAR, CONGRESS IS SUPPOSED TO

TREAT THAT AS PRESUMPTIVELY

CONCLUSIONIVE.

THEY'RE JUST SUPPOSED TO COUNT

THAT.

THE PROBLEM IS NOT WON AND LOSS,

BECAUSE IT SAYS THOSE WERE

SUPPOSED TO BE TREATED AS VALID.

>> ONE MORE LAW QUESTION.

>> SURE.

>> THE CATALYST FOR THE STORMING

OF THE CAPITOL AND OF THE CHAOS

THAT HAS -- THAT WE'VE BEEN

EXPERIENCING FOR THE LAST COUPLE

OF MONTHS HAS BEEN THE CLAIMS BY

THE PRESIDENT AND MANY OF HIS

SUPPORTERS THAT -- THAT THE

ELECTION WAS STOLEN AND THAT WAS

MADE POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF THE

COMPLICATIONS OF OUR COVID

ELECTION AND ALL THE NOVELTIES

INVOLVED AND THAT, IN TURN, WAS

MADE POSSIBLE BECAUSE EACH OF

THE STATES HAS ITS OWN RULES,

WHICH I ALSO DIDN'T KNOW, HAS

ITS OWN RULES AS A RESULT OF --

OF THE -- TO DETERMINE THE

ELECTIONS.

IS THAT SOMETHING WE NEED TO

REVISIT?

MAYBE FEDERALIZE THE ELECTION,

THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION RULES

ACROSS THE COUNTRY?

IS IT POSSIBLE TO DO THAT?

>> SO -- NOT REALLY, BECAUSE THE

CONSTITUTION PROVIDES FOR VERY

DECENTRALIZED STRUCTURE.

NOW, SOME THINGS HAVE BEEN

NATIONALIZED.

SO, THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF

1965 IS A STATUTE THAT, SOME OF

ITS PROVISIONS APPLY NATIONWIDE.

THE PROHIBITION OF

DISCRIMINATION IN VOTING, BUT

THERE WERE OTHER PROVISIONS THAT

SINGLED OUT CERTAIN

JURISDICTIONS.

SO, THERE ARE ASPECTS OF FEDERAL

LAW THAT -- THERE ARE ASPECTS OF

ELECTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN

FEDERALIZED.

NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT,

WHICH MOST PEOPLE KNOW AS THE

MOTOR VOTER LAW.

SO, THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS

THAT CAN BE DONE.

A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THIS IS HR-1.

AND KEEP IN MIND --

>> WHAT IS THAT?

>> SO, HR-1 IS IMPORTANT,

BECAUSE IT IS A BILL THAT WOULD

NATIONALIZE CERTAIN ASPECTS OF

ELECTION ADMINISTRATION.

SO, FOR EXAMPLE, THE BILL ALLOWS

THOSE WITH FELONY CONVICTIONS TO

REGISTER TO VOTE IN FEDERAL

ELECTIONS.

IT WOULD REQUIRE INDEPENDENT

COMMISSIONS FOR CONGRESSIONAL

DISTRICTS.

IT MANDATES MANDATORY VOTER

REGISTRATION FOR FEDERAL

ELECTIONS AND SAME-DAY VOTER

REGISTRATION FOR FEDERAL

ELECTIONS.

SO, IT REALLY IS THE MOST

EXPANSIVE INTERVENTION IN OUR

SYSTEM OF ELECTIONS IN A

GENERATION.

REALLY SINCE THE VOTING RIGHTS

ACT.

IT GOES WAY FURTHER THAN THE

NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT

OR THE HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT,

OTHER FEDERAL STATUTES THAT, YOU

KNOW, MAY, YOU KNOW, IMPORTANT

CHANGES, BUT ON A MUCH SMALLER

SCALE.

AND SO IF THIS PASSES, IT WILL

REPRESENT A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE

IN HOW OUR ELECTIONS ARE

CONDUCTED.

AND THE SYMBOLIZE OF IT BEING

HR-1 SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED,

RIGHT?

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IS

ESSENTIALLY SAYING DEMOCRACY IS

ON THE AGENDA.

IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING,

WHICH IS WHY IT'S THE FIRST BILL

WE'RE REINTRODUCING.

IT WAS INTRODUCED IN THE LAST

CONGRESS AS HR-1 AND IT IS

INTRODUCED AS HR-1 AGAIN.

>> SO, THAT'S COMING SOON.

>> YEAH.

>> JOHN, YOU WERE SHAKING YOUR

HEAD WHEN I BEGAN TO ASK THE

QUESTION.

QUICKLY?

>> YEAH, ON A COUPLE FRONTS.

FIRST OF ALL, THE PARALLELISM OF

WHAT DEMOCRATS HAVE DONE IN PAST

ELECTIONS DOES NOT ACTUALLY WORK

REMOTELY WITH WHAT REPUBLICANS

DID IN THIS ONE.

LET ME EXPLAIN WHY AS THOUGH

THERE WAS AN ARGUMENT MADE.

WE HAVE HAD A HANDFUL -- HANDFUL

OF DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMEN AND

WOMEN WHO HAVE RAISED OBJECTIONS

IN THE 2000 ELECTION, WHICH

DEMOCRATS WON THE POPULAR VOTE

AND WAS DECIDED BY FLORIDA BY A

VERY NARROW MARGIN.

IN 2004, REPUBLICANS WON THE

POPULAR VOTE, THE ONLY TIME IN

THE LAST 25 YEARS, BUT OHIO WAS

INCREDIBLY CLOSE AND THERE WERE

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ELECTION

THERE, WHICH IS WHEN BARBER

BOXER CAME ON.

AND IN THE WAKE OF THE 2016

ELECTION, WHERE, OF COURSE,

DONALD TRUMP LOST THE POPULAR

VOTE BY NEARLY 3 MILLION AND

THERE WERE ACCURATE ALLEGATIONS

OF FOREIGN INTERFERENCE ON HIS

BEHALF.

OUT OF THOSE THREE CHALLENGES BY

A HAND.

OF DEMOCRATS, ONLY ONE CASE,

2005, DID ONE DEMOCRATIC

SENATOR, BARBARA BOXER, SAY,

YES, I WILL SIGN ONTO THIS AND

THERE WAS A TWO-HOUR DEBATE.

THAT IS A FAR CRY FROM 139

REPUBLICAN -- 66% OF THE

REPUBLICAN HOUSE -- SIGNING ONTO

THIS, TOTALLY WITHOUT ANY --

>> AND FOUR SENATORS.

>> AND THEN SEVEN SENATORS

SIGNING ON.

>> OH.

>> I JUST THINK CREATING THAT

CONTEXT REAL WLI IMPORTANT,

BECAUSE IT'S ONE OF THESE THINGS

THAT TECHNICALLY TRUE, BUT

CONTEXT CHULLY A LIE.

>> ALL RIGHT, GOOD.

SAM, IN THE LEADUP TO THE

PRESIDENTIAL -- PRESIDENT-ELECT

BIDEN'S INAUGURATION, WE HEARD

THE THEME OF HIS SPEECH AND THE

THEME OF THE WHOLE INAUGURATION

PROCESS WILL BE UNITY, AS IS

EXPECTED.

WHAT, FOR EXAMPLE, WHAT ARE SOME

OF THE STEPS THAT HE COULD TAKE

IN THE FIRST 100 DAYS, SAY, TO

BEGIN THAT PROCESS OF UNITY?

>> WELL, WHEN YOU GO BACK AND

JOHN PROBABLY KNOWS THIS BETTER

THAN I DO, WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT

WASHINGTON SAID, HE WAS TALKING

ABOUT UNITING THE COUNTRY, TOO,

BECAUSE PEOPLE FORGET THAT OUT

OF THAT FIRST CONGRESS, THERE

WAS THE FIRST TALK OF SECESSION.

THAT TALK WAS COMING FROM THE

NORTH, WHICH SAID THAT IT WAS

GOING TO SECEDE UNLESS THE

UNITED STATES PICKED UP THE

FEDERAL WAR DEBT, NOT THE SOUTH.

SO, THIS IS A VERY, VERY FRAGILE

UNION AT THE TIME, WHEN CONGRESS

WAS MEETING AT FEDERAL HALL

DOWNTOWN.

AND I THINK JOE BIDEN IS GOING

TO LOOK FOR THE SAME THING.

I THINK HE'S GOING TO LOOK FOR

THE SPIRIT OF COMPROMISE, WHICH

IS WHAT WE SAW AT FEDERAL HALL.

SOME OF THOSE COMPROMISING ARE

THINGS THAT WE'RE SORT OF STUCK

WITH TODAY THAT WENT TOO FAR,

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE COMPROMISE

OVER SLAVERY, FOR INSTANCE,

WE'RE CERTAINLY IN A POSITION TO

SECOND-GUESS THAT.

AND THAT'S WHY WHAT WE'RE TRYING

TO DO AT FEDERAL HALL IS SAY,

YOU KNOW, WHAT IF THE FOUNDERS

CAME BACK TODAY, WOULD THEY

THINK THEY HAD GOTTEN IT RIGHT,

WOULD THEY THINK WE HAD GOTTEN

IT RIGHT?

AND HWHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU

WERE THE FOUNDERS TODAY?

A LOT OF SECOND-GUESSING THERE.

WELL, I THINK JOE BIDEN IS GOING

TO TALK ABOUT COMPROMISE, HE'S

GOING TO TALK ABOUT BIPA

BIPARTISANSHIP BUT HE'S ALSO

GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE STRAIGHT

AND NARROW, HIS STRATEGY AND THE

IMPORTANCE OF GETTING THINGS

DONE, GETTING THIS COUNTRY ON

THE RIGHT TRACK.

I'M NOT SURE HE'S GOING TO TALK

ABNORMAL SI -- ABOUT SAN ANTONIO

NORMALCY, THE LAST TIME WE

TALKED ABOUT THAT, WE ENDED UP

WITH WARREN HARDING.

SO, THAT MIGHT NOT BE A GOAL IN

AND OF ITSELF, BUT I THINK IT'S

GOING TO BE A POSITIVE,

CONSTRUCTIVE SPEECH.

>> AND WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM

THE NEW CONGRESS?

THE DEMOCRATS ARE IN CONTROL OF

THE HOUSE AND VERY SMALL MARGIN

IN CONTROL OF THE SENATE.

WHAT CAN DEMOCRATS AND

REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS DO TO TRY

TO ACHIEVE BRINGING US TOGETHER

RATHER THAN CONTINUING TO SPLIT

US APART?

>> IF THEY DON'T WORK TOGETHER,

THEY'RE GOING TO ACCOMPLISH

VERY, VERY LITTLE.

THE QUESTION IS GOING TO BE

WHETHER THE REPUBLICANS WANT

SOMETHING TO RUN ON TWO YEARS

FROM NOW, RATHER THAN JUST BEING

OBSTRUCTIONISTS.

IF THEY WANT TO GO HOME AND THEY

SAY THEY ACCOMPLISHED X, Y AND

Z, RATHER THAN JUST STANDING UP

TO THE DEMOCRATS, I THINK

THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO AGREE

ON CERTAIN PIECES OF

LEGISLATION, WHETHER IMMIGRATION

OR OTHER THINGS THAT THEY CAN

TAKE BACK HOME.

>> PROFESSOR, WHAT -- WE HAVE

LESS THAN A MINUTE LEFT.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT YOU'RE

GOING TO BE LOOKING FOR TO SEE

WHICH ONE OF THOSE DIRECTIONS

WE'RE HEADING, COMING TOGETHER

OR COMING FURTHER APART?

>> WELL, I WOULD LIKE TO SEE

SOME BIPARTISAN MOVEMENT ON SOME

OF THE ELECTION-RELATED

LEGISLATION, LIKE, YOU KNOW,

REPUBLICANS CARE ABOUT ELECTION

SECURITY, I'M SURE THERE'S SOME

POLITICAL COMPROMISES THAT CAN

BE MADE.

HR-4, WHICH WOULD RESTORE THE

VOTING RIGHTS ACT.

IT'S MUCH MORE NARROW AND I'M

HOPING -- THE VOTES RIGHTS ACT

USED TO BE BIPARTISAN.

WHEN IT PASSED THE CONGRESS IN

2006, IT WAS 98-0 IN THE SENATE,

RIGHT?

SO, I -- I JUST HOPE WE CAN GET

BACK THERE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU

LOOK AT THE RECENT EVENTS AND WE

REALIZE HOW FRAGILE DEMOCRACY IS

AND HOW IMPORTANT THE RIGHT TO

VOTE IS, RIGHT?

AND HOW SO MANY AMERICANS ARE

WILLING TO COOPT THAT LANGUAGE

OF REVOLUTION, BECAUSE IT'S SO

MUCH PART OF THE AMERICAN ETHOS,

FORGETTING WE HAVE PIVOTED

TOWARDS DEMOCRATIC NORMS.

THAT'S ONE OF THE LESSONS OUT OF

THE CIVIL WAR.

>> I HATE TO CUT YOU OFF, SORRY,

GUYS, WE'RE OUT OF TIME, BUT

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US

TODAY, IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE.

>> THANK YOU.

"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG

AND BY JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN

FAMILY

JUDY AND JOSH WESTON

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

FOUNDATION