Analysis and Commentary on Politics

Trump’s Base

In this first of a two-part series of columns, John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, considers who it is that comprises Donald Trump’s “base.” Dean describes the ways in which polls have correctly and incorrectly described Trump’s supporters and comments on the steady few who seem to support him no matter what.

Two (But Only Two) Jeers for Enforcing the Federal Marijuana Law in Legalized States

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent announcement by Attorney General Sessions that the Trump Department of Justice was rescinding an Obama administration policy toward state-legal marijuana. Dorf argues that the policy shift breaks promises by then-candidate Trump and then-Senator Sessions, but that objections to the new policy on federalism grounds are largely misguided.

Manafort’s Civil Action Attacking Special Counsel Mueller—A Publicity Ploy

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, comments on former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s civil action attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Dean agrees with many other legal commentators that Manafort’s lawsuit is a publicity stunt and posits that, further, it gives Manafort’s lawyers a way to talk about his prosecution by the special counsel without violating the gag order imposed in the criminal case.

Liberals Should Readily Condemn Sexual Misconduct by Democratic Men

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses allegations of sexual misconduct aimed at Democratic men in power and the opposing views progressive writers have taken as to whether these men should resign. Buchanan considers arguments for and against resignation, and reasserts his stance that these men should not be allowed to remain in office. Moreover, Buchanan argues, Democrats should be less fixated on defending these men against Republican attacks (especially those who have not been in office for years) than they are on issues that truly matter in current United States politics.

Why Washington Reacts More Slowly to Sexual Misconduct Allegations Than Hollywood

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the recent spate of sexual misconduct allegations in the political sphere and entertainment industry, and notes how much less inclined to action and condemnation the former is compared to the latter. Dorf illustrates this point by considering the allegations against Donald Trump and Roy Moore, as well as various well-known Hollywood players, then evaluates several factors that may explain the contrast in reactions. Dorf concludes that the polarized, partisan state of our government, coupled with weak political parties, ultimately leaves Washington far more powerless to purge offending individuals than Hollywood.

Right Thing, Wrong Reason: Killing the Republican Tax Plan with Anti-Deficit Arguments Is a Bad Idea

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses politicians' current fixation on the budget deficit and argues that Democrats who take an anti-deficit stance to attack the Republican tax bill are playing right into Republicans’ hands. Buchanan explains why blanket declarations about decreasing the budget deficit as a tax reform fix-all are problematic and cautions Democrats (along with journalists who report on tax reform issues) to be mindful of the arguments they choose when countering Republicans.

Reflections on Insurrections

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers the irony of the (hopefully remote) possibility that people might resort to violence to keep President Trump in power. Buchanan explains the “insurrectionist view” of the Second Amendment, which has never been credited by the Supreme Court, but which holds that the founders included the gun-related amendment in the Bill of Rights to prevent the federal government from running roughshod over the people. Buchanan points out the circular logic that under the insurrectionist view, the reason people need guns is to prevent the government from taking their guns.

Oh, Those Crazy Commissions

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies describes the ongoing military commissions operating at Guantanamo, costing US taxpayers over $90 million per year. Margulies explains why the commissions are are all symbol and no substance but why politicians will never suggest that they be shut down.

Yes, the Political and Economic Issue of Our Time Really Is Inequality

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that economic inequality is the political and economic issue of our time, and now is the perfect opportunity for Democrats to push toward a solution. Buchanan decries the claim that the correct path is to triangulate between the policies of the left and the right and explains why now, more than ever, progressive policies are the best response.

A Republican Reverie: If Only Clinton Had Won!

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that a Clinton victory in 2016 would have been better for Republicans than Trump has been. Buchanan explains why Republican obstructionism, if carried into a Clinton presidency, would have meant longer-term wins for Republicans across multiple branches of government.

Explicit Bigotry and Veiled Racism in the Trump Era

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan warns of the false distinction between being racist and supporting racist policies. Buchanan points out racism is not limited to those marching with Nazis and Klansmen; to consistently support policies that invariably harm disadvantaged people is its own form of racism and is itself reproachable.

Symbols and Distractions

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the announcement by the White House that it would expand the U.S. prison at Guantanamo. Margulies describes the role that Guantanamo has taken on—including its extremely high cost of operations—and the symbolic role it has for Donald Trump and his supporters.

It’s an Either-Or Question: Trump or Decency

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor and resident senior fellow in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, minces no words in criticizing President Trump’s taking sides with neo-Nazis and supporters of the KKK. Hamilton calls upon everyone to make known where they stand—either with Trump in betraying fundamental American values, or on the side of decency.

The Democrats’ Better Way: Positive Messaging or Pandering to Trump Voters Who Are Never Coming Back?

George Washington law professor and economist praises Democrats for coming up with a message that preserves the party’s commitment to social justice issues, rather than attempting to woo Trump voters by appealing to what Trump appealed to. Buchanan cites evidence supporting the argument that Democrats can retake the House in 2018 without sacrificing principles to win back Trump voters, by instead focusing on those who didn’t vote in 2016.

An Attorney General Under (Friendly) Fire: Why Removing Jeff Sessions Is Beside the Point in President Trump’s War Against Robert Mueller

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar argues, contrary to the consensus of legal pundits, that President Trump likely does not have to dispose of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in order to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Amar provides three reasons for his conclusion that the disposition of Sessions is beside the point in the president’s war against Mueller, but he points out that there are more downsides to getting rid of Sessions (for Trump) than there are upsides.

Trump’s Mueller Scheming Will Fail

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, comments on President Trump’s expressed displeasure with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and his apparent concern about the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Dean answers several questions raised by these and related stories.

Altemeyer on Trump’s Supporters

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, relates the research and words of psychology professor Bob Altemeyer as the latter explains how difficult it would be to change the minds of supporters of Donald Trump. Based on Altemeyer’s observations, Dean proposes the only way for Democrats to succeed in 2018 and 2020 is to focus on getting sympathetic non-voters—who outnumber right-wing authoritarians in the general population—to the polls.

Donald Trump: The Art of the Fight

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, describes President Trump’s lifelong history of being in fights—with wives, business partners, vendors, tenants, the news media, and countless others. Dean argues that Trump’s fight tactics include lying, cheating, and seeking to intimidate—skills he likely learned from New York City attorney Roy Cohn.

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 Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

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

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

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

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

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

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more