The James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to honor the legacy of James Madison by funding graduate study focused on the Constitution. The Foundation’s goal is to improve the teaching of our constitutional history and principles in secondary schools by selecting one James Madison Fellow from each state each year to support in their pursuit of a master’s degree in areas of study related to American constitutionalism. In this way, the James Madison Fellowships are intended to ensure that future generations of Americans understand and appreciate our constitutional heritage.
We are Alaska’s James Madison Fellows. We come from different communities, generations, and political affiliations, but share a commitment to teaching the principles of the Constitution. We are writing because of our concern following the events at the Capitol on January6, 2021.
Regardless of partisanship or feelings about the outcome of November’s election, all Americans must recognize that an assault on Congress as it carries out its constitutionally mandated responsibility to count electoral votes certified by the states undermines the constitutional order and respect for the rule of law.
We also have to recognize that protests against governments throughout history have been the result of perceived failures to adequately address significant societal problems. If we do not acknowledge both of these points, we can only expect continued division, polarization, and violence.
This problem was not unknown to the founding generation. In Federalist 10, James Madison argued that an advantage of a “well constructed Union” was “its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.”
In the 1780s, immediately following the Revolution as the states and Congress struggled with the war debt and attempted to establish functioning peacetime governments, the dangers of mob rule and popular leaders who would exploit and inflame public passions threatened to destroy the fragile new Union.
Madison’s vision of a successful federal republic assumed that in a large country it would be more difficult for “the influence of factious leaders” to gain the widespread support necessary to “spread a general conflagration” throughout the states. For nearly two and a half centuries Madison’s blueprint has served us well, but it faces a new and unprecedented challenge in the age of social media and the ease with which we can segregate ourselves and shut out all opposing ideas or be shut out of the platforms we use to express ourselves.
Those who choose their social media platforms and news sources based on a shared political perspective are as guilty as those who seek to silence opposing voices based on political correctness. In either case, we create and foster the factions that Madison correctly identified as the downfall of democratic government and liberty, while making it easier for those who would divide us to spread disinformation.
As Americans we all share the responsibility to educate ourselves and hold our elected officials accountable for upholding their oaths to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. The advantage of a written constitution is that we can refer to its text.
When leaders at the highest levels tell us that the federal government has powers that have never before been exercised we owe it to ourselves and future generations of Americans to go back to the Constitution and demand that they show us the source of those powers. This is especially true when their actions threaten to undermine the powers reserved to the states or our individual liberties.
Being an informed and active citizen, and participating in the preservation of our constitutional order is a great responsibility. Two resources that can help with this are The Constitutional Sources Project (https://www.consource.org/) and Constitution Annotated (https://constitution.congress.gov/). Both of these sites provide searchable digital versions of the Constitution. The Constitutional Sources Project also has a vast collection of other relevant documents, including The Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist writings, and records of the state ratifying conventions. Constitution Annotated includes detailed explanations of constitutional interpretation over time and references to relevant court decisions.
As Madison Fellows, we have faith in the wisdom, resilience, and endurance of our constitutional principles. As constitutional scholars and educators, we also recognize that the preservation of any constitutional system depends on an educated populace that cannot be easily misled or manipulated. The events of January 6th represent the failure of constitutional and civic education at all levels. We can, and must, do better.
Alaskan James Madison Fellows
Donald Davis (1996), Jill Drushal (1998), Barbara Marshall (1999), Jennifer Klaameyer (2003), Mark Oppe (2006), Roxann Gagner (2009), Nathan Walters (2012), Ruth Sensenig (2013), Deborah Lawrence (2014), Leandra Wilden (2016), Stephen Rosser (2018), Alyssa Logan (2020)
Federal support to help seafood processors weather the pandemic is urgently needed
This is a letter to the Honorable Kevin Shea Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from our Alaskan Congressional Delegation and other members of the Senate and Congress, dated January 28th, 2021.
Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, food processors have had to invest significant time, resources, and attention to protect their workers and safeguard their ability to provide food to our nation in a time of unprecedented crisis.
Recognizing the challenges facing seafood processing facilities and processing vessels, as well as the challenges facing American agricultural producers generally, we included specific language in Division N of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 authorizing the Department of Agriculture to provide grants and loans to seafood processing facilities and processing vessels to help them respond to coronavirus and protect their workers against COVID–19.
Seafood processors around the nation are conducting regular testing to ensure their workforce in coastal communities remains COVID-free, providing quarantine housing for employees to complete the recommended 14-day isolation period, chartering secure transportation for employees traveling to remote processing facilities, and marshalling a range of other resources to ensure and enforce safe working conditions. These protocols are expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars through next year, much of which cannot be covered by other Federal assistance programs.
Given the complexity of U.S. seafood supply chains, the success of seafood processors to meet and overcome the challenges created by COVID is directly linked to the success of fishermen who risk their safety to harvest the seafood that Americans enjoy. If processors cannot operate due to COVID shutdowns, independent fishermen have no market for their product and no revenue to support their small businesses.
Federal support to help seafood processors weather the pandemic is urgently needed—without it, our nation’s entire seafood industry may falter.
We urge you to expeditiously develop and robustly fund a program to provide grants and forgivable loan support to seafood processing facilities and processing vessels for COVID response measures, as required by Section 751 of Subtitle B, Title VII, Division N of P.L. 116-260. Please work with us and the seafood industry to effectively design and streamline delivery of assistance.
Lisa Murkowski, United States Senator
Dan Sullivan, United States Senator
Don Young, Member of Congress