Political Exhaustion

Recommended reading today is at The Bulwark, where Charlie Sykes has a nice piece on political exhaustion. He ably describes the state of being of many of us, and many citizens generally, who are attentive to the news. The Orwellian aspects of Trump-ism, combined with frustrations born of the seemingly endless pandemic, fuse to dishearten and disable public spirited people. Sykes identifies political exhaustion as not just our present condition but a phenomenon that needs to be understood and contended with along with more familiar political and constitutional categories, such as authoritarianism, patriotism, nationalism, white supremacy, fascism, etc. Sykes concludes … Continue reading Political Exhaustion

Adam White on Court Reform and the Politics of Self-Restraint

Earlier today, the White House released a statement from Adam White, who served on the President’s Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, outlining why he believes the reforms the panel analyzed are dangerous. It merits careful reading. White puts reforms to a simple test: “Would the changes improve the Court’s capacity to function as a court?” His answer is emphatically no to court-packing. He delivers an compelling rebuttal to term limits for the Court. If these are keyed to presidential terms, White argues, they risk delegitimizing the Court by dragging them further into the rhythms of electoral politics. White’s … Continue reading Adam White on Court Reform and the Politics of Self-Restraint

The Jan 6th Commission

The January 6th Commission is doing valuable work unpacking the details of the events that led up the attack on the Capitol. And it offers Congress a chance to reassert its authority. Congress was violently attacked while carrying out its constitutional responsibilities. If it does not demand answers, and use its constitutional power to get them, it will seem more feckless than ever. But will this matter politically in the short term? That seems highly unlikely.  As Quinta Jurecic argues in an essay in The Atlantic: “These details, if they bear out, are valuable—but they are details. The main facts of what happened … Continue reading The Jan 6th Commission

Bob Dole’s Summons

Bob Dole’s posthumous op-ed in The Washington Post is a compelling call to restore shared values. From the essay: There has been a lot of talk about what it will take to heal our country. We have heard many of our leaders profess ‘bipartisanship.’ But we must remember that bipartisanship is the minimum we should expect from ourselves. America has never achieved greatness when Republicans and Democrats simply manage to work together or tolerate each other. We have overcome our biggest challenges only when we focused on our shared values and experiences. These common ties form much stronger bonds than … Continue reading Bob Dole’s Summons

The Foolishness of Intellectuals

I guess great minds think alike. I was just in the middle of writing my own recommendation of Tom’s essay, when Laura and George wrote theirs. Still I’ll triple down on the recommendation. Tom Merrill (American University) has a piece in the Bulwark today that is truly outstanding. Framed as a review of Glenn Ellmers’s, The Soul of Politics: Harry V. Jaffa and the Fight for America, Merrill undertakes a profound analysis not only of Harry Jaffa and the Claremont Institute, but of intellectuals more generally. I liked it especially for this line: “There is some foolishness that only intellectuals … Continue reading The Foolishness of Intellectuals

More on Merrill on Jaffa

I second Laura’s recommendation of Tom Merrill’s review essay at The Bulwark. And I, too, want to highlight this passage from his review: “There are other parts of Jaffa’s legacy that could be useful to us today as well: his resolute anti-racism; his understanding that alongside the doctrine of human equality in the Declaration of Independence, the United States has persistent traditions of racial subordination, traditions that by no means died in 1865; and his recognition of the continuing need for political agency and choice on the part of statesmen and citizens.” Jaffa, recall, was making these arguments in the late 1950s, when … Continue reading More on Merrill on Jaffa

Recommended Reading: Tom Merrill on the Claremont Institute

Tom Merrill, who is an associate professor at American University and a Hume scholar, has written an excellent, super-sober review of Glenn Ellmers’ new book, The Soul of Politics (which is a book about Harry Jaffa). Merrill doesn’t ignore the fact that Ellmers has recently indulged in some truly ugly polemics, but he takes the book on its own terms, and elevates the tenor of the “What the Hell Happened to Claremont” debate a couple notches. He renders all the questions that inform this discussion about as interesting and subtle as you could hope for. Which to say that Merrill … Continue reading Recommended Reading: Tom Merrill on the Claremont Institute

The Western Tradition and Human Freedom

Martha Bayles wrote this review of what sounds like a very interesting book, Rescuing Socrates by Roosevelt Montas at Columbia University. Montas apparently shows persuasively the ways in which a thinker like Socrates helped liberate him and educate him beyond his background as a Dominican immigrant fresh to New York City. It led him to Columbia and that led him, ultimately, to become a Professor at Columbia teaching in their Great Books Program. It is insufficiently appreciated that the Western Tradition isn’t simply the preserve of old white men dedicated to the preservation of what’s old merely because it’s what’s … Continue reading The Western Tradition and Human Freedom

What Was Ever Wrong With Original Intent?

A recent book from Donald Drakeman–The Hollow Core of Constitutional Theory: Why We Need the Framers–addresses a question that has troubled me for some time. As textualists torture text, and advocates of original public meaning go searching for what cannot be objectively ascertained, what was ever wrong with original intent? The originalist case against original intent, in brief, was that the personal intentions of legislators could not control the meaning of law. Allowing individual intentions to determine meaning for everyone was thought to be anti-republican. The solution was original public meaning, the search not for what the lawmaker meant but … Continue reading What Was Ever Wrong With Original Intent?