Faithful readers of Constituting America’s 90-Day Study have followed the story of our constitution through each of our presidential elections. We have seen that the moral foundations of both of our constitutions—the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution that replaced it—find their most cogent expression in the Declaration of Independence. There, the Founders held the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments must therefore be framed to secure those unalienable rights. Our God-endowed, or natural, rights—regulated by the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God—find security in our legal or civil rights, defended by a system of government so structured as to channel the ambitions of political men and women toward the guardianship of those rights. This requires a regime designed to empower the government so our rights can be defended effectively against those who threaten them, at home or abroad. At the same time, the powers of that government will check and balance one another, so that no single individual or group of individuals will likely usurp all those powers, setting us on the road to tyranny. America’s early Constitutional conflicts centered on the question of how much power should be placed in the hands of the national government vis-à-vis the states’ governments. But whether Federalists or Anti-Federalists, Hamiltonians or Jeffersonians, all of the principal founders aimed at securing the natural rights of Americans by the means of well-designed constitutional forms.
Only once before the twenty-first century has America had three consecutive eight-year presidencies: the years 1801-25 in which three members of “the House of Virginia,” Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe each won two general elections and served for eight years. Historians have called the end of this period “the Era of Good Feelings,” in part because Monroe won his second term without opposition with a single electoral vote cast for his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams.
Barack Obama: Forty-Fourth President of the United States
Nickname: The First African-American President
Terms in Office: 2009-2013; 2013-present
- Born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii
- Parents: Barack Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro
- Barack Obama is still living and in office
- Age upon Start of First Term: 47; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 51
- Age upon Start of Second Term: 51
- Religious Affiliation: Congregationalist (Protestant)
- Political Party: Democrat
- Height: 6 feet 1 inch
- Vice President: Joseph Biden
President Obama is the current president of the United States and is serving his second term in office. Obama passed his landmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act; oversaw the capture and death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden; and enforced a multibillion dollar stimulus in an attempt to help the economy. He has struggled with a scandal regarding the surveillance of the American people by the federal government and an ever-growing debt and deficit.
At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” to which Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The 1996 presidential election cycle and the twenty years hence have demonstrated the fragility of Franklin’s “If.”
FDR’s Third Term and the Twenty-Second Amendment
On November 5, 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first and only U.S. president to be elected for more than two terms. A newspaper headline depicted the historic moment with a joke that captured the public’s ambivalence toward Roosevelt’s unprecedented break from tradition: “Safe on third!”
The 1916 Presidential election pitted incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson against Republican Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. The election was a very close one and had significant ramifications for the “progressive” movement.