Analysis and Commentary on Politics

President Yertle’s Wall

Cornell Law 3L Jareb A. Gleckel and professor Sherry F. Colb argue that President Trump’s overarching goal in his presidency is not to benefit the country but to create a legacy for himself, and a wall along the U.S.–Mexico border would be the pinnacle of such a legacy. Gleckel and Colb draw a comparison to Dr. Seuss’s character Yertle the Turtle, who had similar lofty ambitions, and call upon Americans to expose the President’s true motives and thus undercut his malign pursuits.

Constitutional Democracy, Trust, and Self-Restraint: The Destructive Consequences of Republicans’ Opportunism

University of Florida Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan laments the current precarious situation of our constitutional democracy. He argues that a constitutional democracy becomes unsustainable and ultimately dies when a party abuses and changes the system to maintain its power, which he observes Republicans are doing now.

Elected Dictators? The Limits of What Government Officials Can Do With Their Power

University of Florida Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan considers whether America, having elected Donald Trump, must consequently accept everything he does as “democracy at work.” Buchanan argues that constitutional processes exist not only to protect democracy not only in word but also in spirit, and that extreme consequences of legal action can still threaten the future of democracy.

The Trouble With Trump’s Tariff Threats—And With a Critique of Them

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why President Trump’s threat to escalate tariffs on all Mexican goods if Mexico had not stopped the flow of Central American Migrants erroneously presumes a win-lose situation where none exists. Dorf also explains the fallacy of the criticism that immigration and trade ought to be always kept separate in negotiations.

Woulda Coulda Shoulda: Were, And Are, Mueller’s Hands Really Tied From Saying Whether President Trump Committed Indictable Crimes?

Michigan law professor Evan Caminker considers whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller could have—and whether he can yet—opine on whether President Trump committed a federal crime in obstructing justice. Caminker argues that if Mueller is subpoenaed to testify before Congress, he should say more than he did in his report.

New York Lawmakers Take Aim at Trump

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether two New York bills—one that requires state and local officials to provide congressional committees with the President’s state and local tax records upon request, and the other that would permit the state to prosecute an individual for conduct that was presidentially pardoned—set a dangerous precedent for state interference with federal action. Dorf argues that these bills provide a permissible form of diagonal checks and balances between the branches of the state and federal government and do not raise constitutional concerns.

Exactly What Are the Rules Concerning Supreme (or Other Federal) Court Review of Impeachment Proceedings?

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on President Trump’s recent tweet suggesting that if the Democrats were to try to impeach him, he would ask the Supreme Court to block the impeachment. Amar argues that while critics of that assertion are correct, the legal matter is more complicated than might appear at first blush.

If These Ideas Are Too “Far Left,” Why Are They So Popular? (Part Two)

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his series of columns discussing how the establishment left, particularly the media, is treating the policy and politics of Senator Bernie Sanders (and others) irresponsibly and superficially as “extreme left,” reinforcing false equivalence and “bothsidesism.” Buchanan provides additional support for his thesis across these columns that the supposedly extreme ideas of Sanders and others are actually hugely popular and not at all radical.

Why Do So Many Americans Continue to Support Donald Trump? In a Word: Authoritarianism

John W. Dean, former White House counsel under President Nixon, and Bob Altemeyer, a retired professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba, explain the social science that explains not only Donald Trump and his brand of leadership but also his loyal followers who would continue to support him even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue. Dean and Altemeyer argue that the dangers they pose are far graver than those presented by the Nixon presidency.

The Purest False Equivalence of All: By Attacking Democrats on Substance, NeverTrumpers Destroy the Process

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that pundits on the anti-Trump right erroneously conflate two different categories of objections, substance and process. Buchanan points out that by attacking the substantive policies supported by Democrats and not distinguishing substance from process, Republicans risk weakening the Constitution’s political processes.

Is Trump Even Worse Than Brexit? Need We Ask?

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to a Washington Post guest column by Ian Birrell—a speechwriter for the United Kingdom’s former prime minister David Cameron—in which Birrell argues that Brexit is worse than Trump. Buchanan makes the case that Trump’s negative legacy is likely to be both worse and longer-lasting than Brexit’s.

President Trump’s Emergency Wall Declaration: A Guide to the Legal Issues

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and JD candidate David Moosmann comment on some of the legal issues presented by President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funds for a border wall along the southern US border. Estreicher and Moosmann argue that there is a need for legislation tightening up the standards for presidential declarations of a national emergency, and for Congress to review and consolidate the seemingly vast array of statutes that authorize emergency measures on a presidential declaration.

The Democracy Conundrum: What If Large Numbers of Voters Are Racists? (The Trump/Brexit Tragedies)

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan looks at recent electoral developments in the United Kingdom and the United States (Brexit and Trump’s election) and argues that the justification that Leave/Trump voters “voted their pocketbooks and fears” is no longer supportable. Buchanan points out that democracy does not require that one side excuse the choices of voters who, in the face of overwhelming evidence, voted the wrong way.

Republicans Will Run an Entire Campaign Based on an Incorrectly Defined Word (Socialism) Because They Have Nothing Else

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that while rhetoric and symbolism have always played an important role in politics, today’s Republicans are running an entire campaign on an incorrect definition of “socialism.” Buchanan points out that many people are discovering—to the chagrin of Republicans—that socialism means progressive taxation, increasing workers’ pay, and reducing the costs of higher education, rather than collectivist worker camps, and that it might actually be a good thing.

The Politics of Interpreting a Drop in Abortion Rates

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb discusses a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control that reflects a decrease in the rate of abortions in the United States. Colb explores the various reasons why this might be the case, illustrating how such reasons might differ between pro-life and pro-choice perspectives, as well as offering her own take on the report's findings.

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

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 Robert A. Fox Leadership Program 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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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