A Short Response to Ben Kleinerman on the Republican Party, Jeff Isaac

I appreciate the attention that both Jeff Tulis and Ben Kleinerman have given to my piece! The topic is an important one, and the discussion here is a good one. It is clear that Ben and I have a fundamental difference of opinion on a matter of political judgment: the nature of the current Republican party. We could argue about this for weeks. There is now a substantial body of commentary, by distinguished students of comparative politics, about how the Republican party has become for all intents and purposes an “anti-system party.” I could cite this literature, and explain why … Continue reading A Short Response to Ben Kleinerman on the Republican Party, Jeff Isaac

More on January 6

After his superb speech, President Biden was asked questions by reporters in the hallway of the Capitol. Some had questions born of Ben Kleinerman’s perspective. Ben praised the end of the speech where Biden called for unity and healing. A reporter asked whether that was inconsistent with the bulk of the speech. How can you ask people to heal and unify after you had skewered the former President? Biden’s response was that before one can heal one has to face up to the wound. The January 6 investigation in Congress, the Vice President’s speech, the President’s speech, the Attorney General’s … Continue reading More on January 6

Partisanship, the Big Lie, and January 6th

Jeff claims that Jeff Isaac’s essay rebuts my arguments regarding Biden’s speech. It seems to me that his essay actually illustrates, rather than rebuts, my claims. Both Jeffs seem to appreciate and admire the speech. Jeff Isaac calls it “terrific” in that it “renew[ed] the fight to defend democracy.” As I said in my previous post, I too want to defend democracy. The question is, however, how we go about doing that. Isaac wants to fight for the Constitution, but, for him, continuing that fight apparently means fighting the entire Republican party. He writes: “The most important of aspect of … Continue reading Partisanship, the Big Lie, and January 6th

The Partisanship of Biden’s January 6th Speech

George: I agree with almost everything you say here about what Biden should have done with yesterday’s speech. I just don’t agree that Biden’s speech accomplished that. The attempt to build a coalition of constitutional patriots must include the acceptance of party differences. Biden’s speech was more aggressively partisan that that. He was not merely a constitutional partisan; he became a partisan of the Democratic party. He equated Republican politics now regarding, for instance, the federalization of elections with January 6th. I think there are reasons to oppose the federalization of elections that have nothing to do with January 6th. … Continue reading The Partisanship of Biden’s January 6th Speech

The Reasons for Political Exhaustion

George might be right that I missed the point of Sykes’s essay, but it seems that he missed the point of my post. It’s all-too-easy to blame all of our political exhaustion on Trump and the Republicans. But, as I also suggested in my other post today, I don’t see how that gets us anywhere. The answer to all of our political problems can’t just be: the Republicans did it. There is a crisis of confidence in our democracy that can’t be solved merely by changing the party in power and re-litigating January 6 so that we can remind ourselves … Continue reading The Reasons for Political Exhaustion

Restraining Judicial Restraint

I agree with George that judicial restraint in and of itself does not provide a standard for judging. It may be worth separating two questions: the scope of judicial authority on the one hand and how it should be used on the other. Left wholly to itself, judicial restraint would be agnostic as to how cases should be decided. It would only care whether they should be decided. In other words, one could be an originalist or a living constitutionalist and still believe judges should be restrained. That is inextricable from a belief that constitutional questions are not the exclusive … Continue reading Restraining Judicial Restraint

In Defense of the Enduring: A Reply to Charles Zug

I appreciate Charles Zug’s reply to my post on endurance and the canon. Charles writes, correctly, that ideas can persevere either because they have value or because they serve the interests of powerful groups oppressing less powerful ones. He observes, by way of example, that John C. Calhoun’s and George Fitzhugh’s defenses of slavery were expressions of naked self-interest. That is unquestionably right. But two points are worth noting. One is that the odious “positive good” argument for enslavement did not endure. Calhoun first made it in an 1837 Senate speech. Even fellow southerners like Virginia’s William Cabell Rives found … Continue reading In Defense of the Enduring: A Reply to Charles Zug

What Causes the Canon to Endure

While I’m somewhat sympathetic to Greg Weiner’s point in “Endurance and the Canon,” I need to emphasize a point he overlooks, namely what causes “the canon” to endure. Some ideas endure on account of their intellectual merit–i.e., because they have intellectual staying power. Ben’s examples of Thucydides and Toni Morrison’s Beloved are examples of this phenomenon; because these works tackle problems inherent to humanity, people are likely to seek them out as resources for understanding these problems as long as they’re in print. But some ideas stay around, not because they have any ideational value whatsoever, but because historically they benefit a certain part of society at the … Continue reading What Causes the Canon to Endure

Endurance and the Canon

I appreciate, and generally agree with the conclusions of, Ben Kleinerman’s recent post on the universal relevance of great books. But I would take issue with one point. Ben writes: 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 old. At its worst, “tradition-preservers” defend it on those grounds. Those grounds, however, are both insufficient as a defense and insufficient even as an explanation for why we should take it seriously. I am unaware of traditionalists who seek to preserve what is … Continue reading Endurance and the Canon