Analysis and Commentary on Politics
Coping with Constitutional Ignorance and Alienation

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—explains why ignorance of the Constitution is more consequential now than ever before, particularly coupled with increasing numbers of Americans who are indifferent or hostile toward democratic norms. Professor Sarat calls upon our leaders to take care to explain why our constitutional democracy is worth fighting for and to take up that fight every day.

The Latest Front in the Republican War on Democracy

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—comments on efforts by Republicans in 32 states to restrict the ballot initiative and voter referendum processes—two key levers of direct democracy. Professor Sarat describes origins and development of these processes in our country and argues that the opportunity for citizens to vote directly on the policies that affect their lives is an important democratic tradition that must be preserved.

Go Ahead and Cancel Me, You Erasing, Censorious Silencers; Also . . . Woke!

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan argues that the terms “cancel culture,” “wokeness,” and the like have come to mean only that the person using them does not like something that is being said or done. Professor Buchanan describes how these epithets are simply today’s (much more quickly adopted) versions of the 1990’s political correctness and “PC police”—all political tools for claiming victimhood.

Will Biden Finally Neuter Republicans’ Debt Ceiling Demagoguery?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to apparent plans by some Republicans to bring back the debt ceiling to obstruct the Biden administration. Professor Buchanan explains why that would be a bad idea and also why, if they do, President Biden might be able to kill the debt ceiling as a political issue.

There Are Many Different Ways to Lose Our Democracy

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan describes the precarious situation of our democracy and notes that there are many necessary conditions for a constitutional republic to continue to operate, and because each is necessary, losing any of them would lead to the whole system crashing down. In this column, Professor Buchanan points out some of the many ways in which our nation could descend into autocracy.

Reforming Presidential Pardons: Possible and Necessary, but How High a Priority?

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is not only possible and necessary to reform the president’s constitutional pardon power, but why doing so should be a high priority. Professor Buchanan argues that preventing future abuses of the pardon is critical to preventing its use as a tool of autocracy.

To Protect Independence of Inspectors General, Make Them Part of Congress

Guest columnist and former U.S. Congressman Brad Miller comments on recent reports that the Trump administration hindered and delayed investigations by inspectors general. Mr. Miller argues that to ensure that the inspectors general be able to do their job of preventing abuse of power, corruption, and incompetence, they should be made part of the Legislative Branch, rather than the Executive Branch.

How Not to Criticize the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf responds to three broad-based objections by Republican opponents to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: (1) that the already-recovering economy doesn’t need stimulus; (2) that many of the Act’s provisions have nothing to do with COVID-19; and (3) that there will be waste, fraud, and abuse. Professor Dorf explains why these objections ring hollow and argues that while the Act is not perfect legislation and will likely face challenges in implementation, it is a much better option than anything Republicans were offering.

Would Senate Republicans Abandon Their Baseless Arguments if There Were a Secret Ballot?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether a secret ballot is a good idea, or even permissible, in former President Trump’s impeachment trial. Professor Buchanan ultimately takes no position on the question of a secret ballot, suggesting that it might simply be an easy way out for Senate Republicans; he argues that what matters most is that the trial go forward, revealing an open-and-shut case against Donald Trump.

Last Call at the Bar: Grading the Briefs in Trump Impeachment 2.0

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, offers thoughts on the legal tactics and briefs filed by each side in former President Trump’s second impeachment trial. Mr. Falvy argues that if Trump can survive a second impeachment vote, it will show that he is still operating where he has always believed himself to be: well beyond the reach of the law.

Who May/Should Preside Over Former President Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial?

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone argue that the constitutional ambiguity over who may preside over former President Trump’s second impeachment trial supports the conclusion that the Senate should ask Chief Justice John Roberts to preside. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone explain why other people—such as Senate President Pro Tempore, the Vice President, and any other senator—are not ideal options because of real or perceived conflicts.

Corporate Transitional Justice

Illinois law professor Lesley M. Wexler and Nicola Sharpe discuss various corporate responses to the recent storming of Capitol Hill and consider whether such responses might constitute private transitional justice. Professors Wexler and Sharpe point out, however, that simply vocalizing a commitment to social justice, diversity, and inclusivity is not enough; corporations should diversify boards and leadership representation and take other quantifiable steps that transform corporate culture and processes.

Impeaching a Former President Is Plainly Constitutional

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the text of the Constitution makes clear that Congress has the power to impeach and convict Donald Trump, even though he is no longer President. Buchanan describes the unambiguous textual support for this conclusion, which Buchanan (and others) argue is also amply supported by the Constitution’s purpose, structure, and other interpretive approaches.

Trump’s Coup Failed, But He Gave Republicans a Road Map to Ending Constitutional Democracy…Soon

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan points out that although Trump’s coup failed, Republicans now have in front of them all of the building blocks necessary to impose one-party rule in the United States within the next four years. In this first of a series of columns, Professor Buchanan describes but a few of the available options Republicans have to rig elections in their favor.

Obstacles to the Biden Agenda Include Americans’ Belief in Nonsense

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the willingness of Americans to believe lies and misinformation, pointing to confirmation bias and social media bubbles as playing key roles in this problem. Professor Dorf argues that we must render Trumpism beyond the pale, in part by shunning those who spread lies and minimizing opportunities for them to spread dangerous misinformation and incite riots.

Apology as Accountability in Transitional Justice

Illinois law professor Lesley M. Wexler discusses the possibility of and criteria for amend making, amid calls for national unity and moving forward after the violence at the Capitol on January 6. Professor Wexler focuses on Oklahoma Senator James Lankford’s recent apology after his call for an electoral commission, applauding Senator Lankford for his willingness to apologize but pointing out that these actions alone do not undertake much of the hard work demanded by restorative and transitional justice.

Why Georgia Should Take the Lead in Holding President Trump Accountable for His Crimes Against Democracy

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—and history teacher John deVille argue that George should take the lead in holding Donald Trump accountable for crimes against democracy. Professor Sarat and Mr. deVille point out that a criminal trial with Trump in the dock would be both “a galvanizing national seminar on democratic values” and “a chance for officers of the court to question the President in a forum where he could neither obfuscate nor intimidate.”

Double Jeopardy: Answers to Six Questions About Donald Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, addresses six key questions about Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. Falvy provides clear and supported answers to frequently asked questions such as whether the Senate can act to remove Trump from the presidency, whether it can hold a trial after his term expires, who should preside, and whether he will lose his presidential perks.

Hawley’s Excuse for a Coup: Dangerous Nonsense in Search of a Legal Fig Leaf

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan challenges Senator Josh Hawley’s proffered reason that the Senate should have heard challenges to the counting of electoral votes. Professor Buchanan argues that, no matter how he tries to justify his approach, he was willing to violate the U.S. Constitution to overthrow the duly elected incoming President and to further his own cynical plans to run for President in a future election.

The Steps the Biden Administration Needs to Take to Rescue the U.S. from the Precipice of Theocracy

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, describes the steps the Biden administration needs to take to bring the country back from the precipice of becoming a theocracy. Professor Hamilton highlights action items with respect to the Department of Justice, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment, tax exemptions and accountability, and governmental financial support for organizations engaged in discriminatory practices.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more