More on July 17

Greg Weiner’s very useful post on Madison’s efforts to advance a national veto over state legislation offers a good opportunity to make a larger point about the Convention and the Constitution. It is striking how nationalist Madison is in the convention compared to his later efforts as a partisan within Jefferson’s party — a party that can be understood as an heir to the anti-federalist tradition. In the convention debates, as recorded in his Notes, Madison is more forthrightly nationalist than he is in The Federalist, where his argument is more circumspect and iterative. Recently we learned that Madison’s Notes … Continue reading More on July 17

Response to Laura Field on William Thro

Personally, I am more appalled and offended than I am perplexed.  The thrust of the piece is to foist a Christian lens onto the very idea of being a constitutionalist.   So constitutions are only for Christians? Second, Mr. Thro foists a Christian lens onto our specific Constitution even though the only mention of a god is the Lord associated with the numbering of years marking the time  the Constitution was proposed by the Philadelphia convention — as in what we now call the common era.  Madison was able to discuss human nature without reference to God or to theology.  … Continue reading Response to Laura Field on William Thro

Misunderstanding State and Nation in the Constitution

Following up on the most recent posts by Greg and Ben, let me highlight a book by my Texas Law colleague, Calvin Johnson, Righteous Anger at the Wicked States. Calvin’s book underscores Ben’s point that the federalists, including Madison at the convention and during ratification, were very much nationalists — just as the Anti-Federalists claimed. The concessions to the states were grudging and reluctant and, as Herbert Storing argued, did not actually represent the states qua states. The Anti-Federalists understood this well, pointed it out repeatedly, and it was the main reason they opposed the Constitution. Why did it come … Continue reading Misunderstanding State and Nation in the Constitution

A New Constitution for the United States

Democracy: A Journal of Ideas today published a new draft constitution for the United States. Editor Michael Tomasky describes this special symposium as “probably the most ambitious project ever undertaken by this journal.” This was an extraordinary endeavor that brought together legal academics, political scientists and some journalists to return to the fundamentals and rethink the American political order and the role the present Constitution plays in generating or enhancing the political pathologies now gripping the United States. I was one of the 55 delegates to this drafting convention that spent the last year deliberating — and I have an … Continue reading A New Constitution for the United States

New America Statement of Concern

Given the stakes and high pitched tone of politics for the last five years, and the pandemic, I know many Americans are tired of the relentless drumbeat of political news and opinion. I feel that way myself. But it is in precisely circumstances like the present that the American constitutional order is in greatest danger. I added my signature to those of many others who study democracies for a living to warn our fellow citizens of just how perilous our present condition is today. Here is our Statement of Concern. Continue reading New America Statement of Concern

Commission and Corruption

Amanda Carpenter has a terrific piece today at The Bulwark laying out the reasons that compel the need for a January 6 Commission to comprehensively review and assess the insurrection at the Capitol. George Thomas recently began a conversation on this topic here at The Constitutionalist. The House is voting today on a bill to establish this commission. It was crafted in a truly bi-partisan fashion by the House Homeland Security Committee, modeled on the body formed to investigate the 9/11 attacks. When the January 6 commission was initially discussed, the tentative plan was to model the commission on the … Continue reading Commission and Corruption

Canceling the Classics

“The Western canon is, more than anything, a conversation among great thinkers over generations that grows richer the more we add our own voices and the excellence of voices from Africa, Asia, Latin America and everywhere else in the world. We should never cancel voices in this conversation, whether that voice is Homer or students at Howard University. For this is no ordinary discussion. The Western canon is an extended dialogue among the crème de la crème of our civilization about the most fundamental questions. It is about asking “What kind of creatures are we?” no matter what context we … Continue reading Canceling the Classics