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

The Claremont Institute’s Ugly Turn

At The Bulwark, Laura Field has a thoughtful, fair, and painstaking analysis of the Claremont Institute’s ugly and irresponsible turn.  “That Claremont has been unparalleled in its intellectual submission to Trumpism should give us pause. After all, in some respects the Claremont crowd is precisely the sort who should have known better: deeply read in political philosophy and history, and familiar with the many warning signs that Trump would be a damaging and divisive president. There is also a sense, however, in which the Claremont crowd’s submission to Trump was the most predictable thing in the world—the simple culmination of a political … Continue reading The Claremont Institute’s Ugly Turn

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

Recommended Reading: Hannah-Jones Statement, and a good bipartisan op-ed

Nikole Hannah-Jones was awarded tenure at UNC Chapel Hill last week, but has rejected the offer and decided to take a job at Howard University instead. She has released a statement explaining this decision, which is worth reading in full. The circumstances surrounding the process at UNC have still not been explained to her. I also appreciated this op-ed by By Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley and Thomas Chatterton Williams. It’s a powerful and clear articulation of why the anti-CRT laws are so antithetical to American principles. There will always be disagreement about any nation’s history. The United States is no … Continue reading Recommended Reading: Hannah-Jones Statement, and a good bipartisan op-ed

Recommended Reading

This post by Paul Campus at Lawyers, Guns & Money captures something important about the asymmetric expectations that commentators tend to have of the two parties. Campos looks at the results of the 2020 election demographically, and shows how much extra credit Republicans get when they manage to eke out support from any minority. He points out how Hispanic/Latino men voted for Biden over Trump by a 2-1 margin. White men voted for Trump by the same margin. Everyone acknowledges that the latter indicates overwhelming support for Trump. But pundits also take the former as “great” support for… Trump! Campos’ … Continue reading Recommended Reading

Tory Pragmatism

This essay from Michael Knox Beran is among the more incisive reflections I have recently read on politics, especially within the constraints of the American regime. Beran argues that both right and left get Franklin Roosevelt wrong: FDR was less radical and more cautious than is generally believed. Beran captures the essential challenge of the statesman: In a moment of crisis, he or she must act without definitive sense of what the correct action is or what all its consequences may be. Beran suggests that Roosevelt read the “temper of the country” better than some later scholars have claimed: The … Continue reading Tory Pragmatism

Charles Kesler’s Crisis of the Two Constitutions

I’ve written a review of Charles Kesler’s recent book Crisis of the Two Constitutions for National Review. The book is worth reading. Its insights on issues ranging from Federalist 10 to Washington’s conception of civility are excellent and characteristic of its learned author. But I do pick a few fights. One is whether Kesler can maintain his seemingly bemused aloofness from Trumpism. Another is how conservatives should treat the rhetoric of crisis. I’m an originalist. I think the Constitution got a lot right in 1787 and that many of its imperfections have been corrected by amendment. Moreover, I agree that … Continue reading Charles Kesler’s Crisis of the Two Constitutions

Recommended Reading: “The Delusions of the Radical Centrist”

I highly recommend this article from last week by Eric Levitz, which is mostly about Michael Lind’s 2020 book The New Class War, but which touches on all kinds of important questions about American party politics today. The pathologies that Levitz ascribes to Lind are present in many others (Patrick Deneen comes foremost to my mind). Here’s one of the best parts: Lind’s insistence that America’s dominant class is a (vaguely defined) professional elite — rather than a smaller cohort of ultrarich capitalists — is tendentious at best. And this is far from the only defect in his political analysis. … Continue reading Recommended Reading: “The Delusions of the Radical Centrist”

The Case Against Funding Local Journalism

This column by Brian Klaas of The Washington Post correctly diagnoses a malady of contemporary republicanism—the decline of local journalism and the rise of celebrity politics at the national level—but prescribes a perilous treatment: public subsidies. Klaas correctly notes that Americans trust local media more but pay attention to it less. But there is something worse than a continued erosion of local reporting: local reporting dictated, or substantially influenced, by government. It’s a bad idea for the same reason James Madison said public funding of religion was a bad idea. In his “Memorial and Remonstrance,” Madison had this to say … Continue reading The Case Against Funding Local Journalism