July 16-17: The Great Compromise, and Beyond

Without question, July 16 and 17 were two of the most important days of the Constitutional Convention. That’s because across the span of those two days, the delegates reached what gets called “The Great Compromise.” (Sometimes you’ll also hear this talked about as “The Connecticut Compromise” or “Sherman’s Compromise.”) To that point, there had been difficult debate between large and small states over their representation in the proposed Senate. Larger states, not surprisingly, wanted representation in the Senate to be proportional, with states that contributed more to national defense and finance having more representatives. Smaller states, again not surprisingly, wanted … Continue reading July 16-17: The Great Compromise, and Beyond

Susan McWilliams Barndt lists her favorite books of 2020

Prohibition, The Constitution, and States’ Rights by Sean Beienburg (University of Chicago Press, 2019) This book is a captivating political history of Prohibition – that dark moment in our nation’s history – and its undoing. It is also a reflection on the dynamics of American politics, with a focus on questions of federalism and states’ rights. Beienburg shows us that whatever else it accomplished (like getting my grandfather suspended from college), Prohibition massively extended federal authority in this country. While it is no longer the law of the land, the legal legacy of Prohibition is still with us. One of … Continue reading Susan McWilliams Barndt lists her favorite books of 2020

Secessionism is Baked Into the American System

There has never been a moment in American history without its secessionists. That makes sense. We have always valorized popular sovereignty in the United States, but we’ve never lived under conditions conducive to it. Specifically, this country has always been so big and so diverse that meaningful popular sovereignty is not possible on a national level. I love what Nathaniel Hawthorne once said: this country is “too vast by far to be taken into one small human heart.” Americans believe that “we the people” deserve to govern, but in practice it is hard for any individual person – or group … Continue reading Secessionism is Baked Into the American System

Small Versus Privatized Government

This article, by Chiara Cordelli in the Boston Review, is worth reading.  In “Why Privatization is Wrong,” Cordelli makes an important distinction between “small government” and “privatized government.” The former is a long-held ideal in American politics. The latter is closer to what Americans have now. As Cordelli puts it, “Even in the United States, the breeding ground of neoliberal “small government” advocates, government spending has substantially increased in the last decades, and the overall workforce employed by the federal government has also gone up. However, its composition and modes of operation have changed. While the number of civil servants has … Continue reading Small Versus Privatized Government

Is Trump a Fascist, or “Almost the Complete Opposite”?

Given the discussion on this site (and elsewhere) about the relationship between Trump and fascism, you readers may be interested in this brief interview with Corey Robin in the Jewish Currents newsletter. Robin’s argument – which is interesting even if you find it unpersuasive — is that Trumpism is “almost the complete opposite of fascism.” For Robin, fascism is about the exercise of strength and will, and he sees Trump as an exceptionally weak leader. Continue reading Is Trump a Fascist, or “Almost the Complete Opposite”?