Repeal the First 100 Days

I have a piece in The New York Times this morning arguing that the first-100-days standard for presidents is an arbitrary benchmark that encourages change for its own sake while punishing prudence. Presidents who simply want to govern never stand a chance by that measure, because we tend to assess presidents by the scale and speed of change and not by its necessity. It’s possible, I argue, that President Biden confronted crises on the scale of Franklin Roosevelt (who borrowed the 100-days standard from Napoleon to describe his blitz against the Great Depression). But it’s less likely that the nation … Continue reading Repeal the First 100 Days

Expanding the Court

UPDATE: I stand by the concerns about adjusting the size of the Court, but I suspect I was hasty in criticizing the six-month deadline. The membership of the Commission is excellent, and I wish it well. I’m leaving the post in place below. President Biden has announced a 180-day commission that will study reforms of the Supreme Court, including expanding its membership and limiting justices’ terms. There may be good reasons for some of these. The roadblock that conservative justices present to progressive priorities right now is not among them. Consequently, the most revealing and disturbing aspect of the Biden … Continue reading Expanding the Court

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?

Lincoln to Biden: Stand Firm, by Frederick E. Hoxie

As we assess the significance of the January 6 Capitol assault and prepare for Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, many commentators have compared recent events to Reconstruction, the post-Civil War period when political divisions between North and South were resolved through northern acquiescence to white supremacy, disfranchisement and segregation. Continue reading Lincoln to Biden: Stand Firm, by Frederick E. Hoxie

What’s the Holdup?

After the President’s unrepentant comments this morning and the Republican Party’s rapid return to baseline–witness Lindsey “Count Me Out” Graham accompanying Trump on his border visit–the correct course seems clear: Impeach this afternoon and send the article or articles to the Senate this afternoon. The purpose of the 25th Amendment gambit in the interim remains unclear, and it suggests Congress would prefer to outsource its responsibilities to the vice president. Any delay in sending the article(s) to the Senate would suggest political maneuvering. More important, it would suggest subservience of House Democrats to President-Elect Biden’s wishes. An immediate impeachment and … Continue reading What’s the Holdup?

Federalist 10 and the Search for Common Ground

The caricature of Federalist 10 is that Madison aims to fracture majorities to prevent factious rule—what Tocqueville would later call “the tyranny of the majority.” That reading is wrong on several levels, including the fact that Madison never actively fractures anyone. He simply observes that the natural conditions of an extended republic make it difficult for majority factions to form or, if they do, to prevail. In his Preface to Democratic Theory, Robert Dahl spotted what he thought was a fatal flaw: “[N]o modern Madison has shown that the restraints on the effectiveness of majorities imposed by the facts of a pluralistic … Continue reading Federalist 10 and the Search for Common Ground