A Clarification on the Separation of Powers

I agreed with Ben’s essential point that within the separation of powers we can expect President Biden to have a somewhat different perspective on executive power than candidate Biden or, especially, Senator Biden. That point was about the institution shaping the occupant of the office. That’s embodied in Madison’s famous line about the interests of the office holder being connected to the “constitutional rights of the place.”  I am skeptical, however, that this understanding of the separation of powers captures our contemporary Congress. Ben takes heart that even while Republicans were reluctant to resist President Trump, the fact that they … Continue reading A Clarification on the Separation of Powers

Separation of Parties, not Powers?

Both George and Greg suggest that my separation of powers argument concerning Biden’s air strikes doesn’t square with the fact that political parties have replaced the separation of powers. I agree with them that this has now become the conventional opinion regarding the separation of powers. And, as they rightly note, the dominance of parties over powers is especially clear during unified control of government. The majority party in Congress doesn’t assert its institutional rights very strongly if it also controls the Presidency. That being said, I think this argument is somewhat overstated. Ultimately, it depends some on thinking of … Continue reading Separation of Parties, not Powers?

Separation of Powers? Or Separation of Parties?

I think Greg Weiner’s friendly amendment to Ben Kleinerman’s argument may be more than an amendment. What Greg rightly notes is that the logic of the separation of powers should be institutional, not partisan. It is not particularly odd that President Biden sees things differently than Senator Biden. He occupies a different office with different obligations and responsibilities. This is the constitutionally induced hypocrisy that Ben speaks of. (Having said that, Greg is entirely right that there should be principled limits on what the executive is willing to push.) But when members of Congress are what Greg calls “situational constitutionalists,” … Continue reading Separation of Powers? Or Separation of Parties?

Syrian Air Strikes and Presidential Authority

In the wake of Biden’s air strikes against Syria, many of his opponents are returning to statements he and Kamala Harris made critical of Trump for similar kinds of strikes. Although I understand the inevitable politics of these things, I would suggest that we’re witnessing the separation of powers succeed. As President, Biden has a different set of responsibilities than he did as a presidential candidate or as an opponent of the past President. Given this difference, it shouldn’t surprise us that he is behaving differently. The Constitution itself induces and even encourages such hypocrisy. Senators have certain kinds of … Continue reading Syrian Air Strikes and Presidential Authority

The Danger of All-or-Nothing Elections and the Claremont Message

Milikh’s message might still make Laura uncomfortable but, to the extent that it is political rather than doomsday-ish, I think it a very important advancement. Our democracy depends on an intelligible conservatism that isn’t flirting every four years with rhetoric about the death of all civilization. Continue reading The Danger of All-or-Nothing Elections and the Claremont Message

University Press of Kansas

Below you’ll find a letter written recently by the American Political Thought section urging the continued funding on the press. Here is a link to a change.org site where you can sign a petition: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-kansas-save-university-press-of-kansas. We might also be able to add your name to the letter. If you’d like to do that, just put your name in the comments section of this post. Continue reading University Press of Kansas

A Definition of the New Conservatism and Claremont’s Role In It

Laura Field recently posted a summary of and links to the discussions of Trump by those affiliated with the Claremont Institute. Their unabashed and even enthusiastic support of Trump has perplexed many who were sympathetic to and even supportive of Claremont’s mission prior to their Trumpian term. Why were they supporting a man who seemed so contrary to their prior celebration of and veneration for the American tradition of prudence as represented by someone like Abraham Lincoln? I suppose Lincoln and Trump both believe in America…but what else do they have in common? Why were they defending a man who … Continue reading A Definition of the New Conservatism and Claremont’s Role In It

Civic Education and Civic Virtue

An upcoming AEI event, Recovering republican virtue in a fractured age, puts these questions front and center. In the first essay of the “Federalist Papers,” Alexander Hamilton noted that it fell to the American people to decide “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” To secure the former would depend on cultivating a kind of public-spiritedness now commonly referred to as “republican virtue.” But what exactly is republican virtue? How should it intersect with … Continue reading Civic Education and Civic Virtue

Varieties of Trumpism and the Class Divide

Dan McLaughlin at the National Review has this piece breaking down the varieties of Trumpism and what they mean for the future of the Republican party. It’s a helpful typology, indicating both where Trumpism has a future, even one that is politically salutary, and where it does not. I found his discussion of “common-man Trumpism” especially illuminating. He writes: ‘The divide in class attitudes is much starker than in the social-egalitarian world described by Alexis de Tocqueville in his travels across 1830s America, and many educated, professional Americans don’t even see it.” This is the aspect of Trumpism that isn’t … Continue reading Varieties of Trumpism and the Class Divide

Democracy and the Constitution

David Frum has an excellent essay at The Atlantic, The Founders were Wrong about Democracy. The Constitution was meant to cultivate complex majorities rather than empower minority rule. Yet Frum is right to ask whether devices meant to channel and refine popular understandings have empowered minority rule. In many instances, they clearly have. But Frum pushes further, asking whether these devices create disorder and instability. Would we better off with simple majority rule on a host of issues? Frum makes a powerful case that “The United States in the 21st century has reached a point where the best way to attain the … Continue reading Democracy and the Constitution