A January 6th Commission

Will January 6th be the new norm? More pointedly, will efforts to overturn the results of close elections become an ordinary feature of American politics? In close elections, will state legislatures refuse to certify elections results if a candidate from the other party won? Will the House and Senate refuse to acknowledge the counting of electoral votes if the candidate of the other party won?  Such questions go to the heart of American democracy.   Liz Cheney is right that we should have a January 6th commission to fully understand the events the culminated in the attack on the Capitol. As she writes in … Continue reading A January 6th Commission

The GOP and Constitutional Democracy

The late political scientist E.E. Schattschneider famously said that “modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of the parties.” Two healthy political parties committed to the constitutional order, even while disagreeing in powerful ways, are essential to maintaining constitutional democracy. While it is true that both parties on occasion have factions that are less committed to constitutional democracy than would be ideal, the GOP has taken a particularly dangerous turn in recent years as these forces have largely taken over the party.  As Peter Wehner writes in The Atlantic: “All Americans should hope the Republican Party regains its philosophical bearings and moral … Continue reading The GOP and Constitutional Democracy

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

Christopher Scalia on Court-Packing

Christopher Scalia has an excellent piece at USA Today debunking the specious grounds of the Democratic attempt to expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices. The grounds are so implausible as to raise another question: Why bother with the pretense? That is not a rhetorical question, at least not entirely. Expanding or contracting the Court is one of the legitimate tools at Congress’ disposal for constraining judicial behavior of which it disapproves. For a variety of reasons, I would oppose expanding the Court. But I would endorse being open about the reasons for proposing it. The Court’s power is swollen … Continue reading Christopher Scalia on Court-Packing

Grossman/Binder interview about the filibuster

Here is an excellent in-the-weeds discussion of the filibuster, between Matt Grossman and Sarah Binder, for the Niskanen Center. The two political scientists get into the current politics in the senate surrounding filibuster reform. It’s pretty fascinating, and a good companion to Adam Jentleson’s work (see links below). Here’s an excerpt from Grossman and Binder’s transcript: Matt Grossmann: So one thing that reformers often say is that these folks in the middle would have all the power under a 50 vote Senate, so why aren’t they in favor of moving it there? Molly Reynolds, who we’ve had on the podcast … Continue reading Grossman/Binder interview about the filibuster

Calhoun, Madison, and Minority Rule

Adam Jentleson has an essay at The Atlantic on the problems of minority rule and the filibuster. The filibuster is often justified as fostering deliberation, requiring the building of broad and complex majorities that cross the partisan divide. It might be particularly defensible when it comes to the appointment of judges—requiring 60 senators to approve of such lifetime appointments. But that’s no longer the case. In point of fact, as Jentleson shows, the filibuster really serves to empower a minority veto on routine lawmaking. It owes far more to the thinking of John Calhoun than James Madison:  “In his Disquisition on Government, Calhoun complained … Continue reading Calhoun, Madison, and Minority Rule

“woke capitalism”

Is there anything more galling than conservatives deploying the phrase “woke capitalism”? When social democrats use the phrase as a term of derision, at least they are being consistent, since they were skeptics about unregulated capitalism from the get-go. But to hear conservatives, who have for decades lauded radical laissez-faire and fear-mongered about taxes, regulation, and campaign finance limits, suddenly do an about-face on capitalism the moment that the markets start to steer in substantive directions they find uncomfortable, is quite remarkable. To be sure, not all conservatives are against regulation (especially when it comes to their own areas of moral … Continue reading “woke capitalism”

Noblesse Oblige, the Class Divide, and Race

This divide isn’t soluble by simply lambasting the losers as uncivilized racists. Nor, on the other side, is it soluble by calling the winners “rodents” and “zombies,” as Glenn Ellmers did in his recent piece in The American Mind. I’m honestly not sure what the answer is except that I know, as my daughter would say, those aren’t it. I also know that it has to begin by us all admitting what is more and more obvious: there’s a deep class divide in America in which access from one side to the other is nearly insurmountable. Continue reading Noblesse Oblige, the Class Divide, and Race

Profound Weakness

I respectfully disagree with my thoughtful colleague, Greg Weiner, who just posted praise and elaboration for a recent piece by Matt Bai on the purported dilemma that faced Dr. Deborah Birx when she led the pandemic response for President Trump. She is described as wrestling with the problem of working for an incompetent and self-centered president while trying to advance public health and the common good. Her failure to tell the truth to the American people and to resign when sidelined by the president are depicted as a lack of prudence. That is undoubtedly true, but also so tame and … Continue reading Profound Weakness

To Mitigate or to Resign?

Matt Bai has an excellent column at The Washington Post on the dilemma Dr. Deborah Birx faced during the Trump Administration, especially in the early days of the pandemic: Unvarnished truth would have made her unable to mitigate the worst impulses of the president and his yes-men, while her participation gave a scientific veneer to policies she now says may have killed hundreds of thousands of people. The dilemma is genuinely difficult, and casual condemnation of Birx is a bit too easy. But I think Bai (who treats the dilemma seriously) ultimately has it right: Birx should have resigned. The … Continue reading To Mitigate or to Resign?