Thunder on the Mountain

For reasons I don’t quite understand myself, the current controversy at the American Political Science Association brought to mind this Bob Dylan song. The APSA meets this week in Seattle with many members attending remotely online. Among the panels on the preliminary schedule are some sponsored by outside organizations given affiliated status. For many years the Claremont Institute has been among these groups. This year Claremont advertised a panel that included the insurrectionist and vile minor league law professor John Eastman. As readers of The Constitutionalist will know, Eastman delivered an incendiary speech at Trump’s insurrection rally, and had planned … Continue reading Thunder on the Mountain

A Must Read Essay in the Washington Post

Robert Kagan has written an extraordinary essay in the Washington Post detailing the danger that Donald Trump and his followers pose to the viability of the American constitutional order. One point that deserves attention is that the many sophisticated academic and journalistic arguments that seek to trace the roots of Trump in conservatism, in the modern Republican party, or in the pathologies of the constitutional order itself unwittingly contribute to the demise of democracy today. It is not that there is no truth to those sophistications. It is rather that the truthful elements pale in comparison to the ways in … Continue reading A Must Read Essay in the Washington Post

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