Analysis and Commentary on Politics
Hunter Biden’s Woes Reveal Joe Biden’s Character and the Kind of Father He Is

Amherst professor Austin Sarat examines how President Joe Biden has handled his son Hunter Biden’s legal troubles and what it reveals about the President’s character. Professor Sarat argues that throughout Hunter’s struggles, Joe Biden has demonstrated unfailing loyalty, love, and self-restraint—important character traits for a leader—and that voters can be assured of the President’s strong character based on how he has responded to this challenging situation.

An Insurrection by Other Means: Will Lawyers Lead the Next Coup Attempt?

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the potential threat to the U.S. Constitution and rule of law posed by a second Trump presidency, as indicated by the statements and plans of Trump and his allies. Professor Sarat argues that defenders of democracy must take seriously what Trump’s advisors are saying about their intentions to radically transform the constitutional order, and be prepared to resist their efforts to subvert long-established legal norms and principles.

Justice Barrett May Serve as a Bridge Between Ideological Sides in the Trump Presidential Immunity Case

Criminal defense attorney Jon May discusses the oral argument the U.S. Supreme Court heard on April 25, 2024, regarding Donald Trump’s argument that the “January 6” case against him should be barred by presidential immunity. Mr. May argues that while some Justices are concerned about the implications of limiting presidential immunity, Justice Barrett’s approach of distinguishing between official acts done in the national interest and the misuse of presidential power for personal gain is a workable solution that would allow the prosecution of Trump’s actions on January 6 without negatively impacting future presidents making difficult decisions.

Is Criminal Prosecution Destined to Become a Regular Tool of Political Combat in the United States?

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the reactions of former President Trump and his allies to his conviction in the New York hush money trial, including their claims that the prosecutions against him are politically motivated and their threats to retaliate with prosecutions against Democrats if Trump is re-elected. Professor Sarat argues that these false allegations and threats represent a dangerous escalation in the MAGA campaign to discredit the rule of law and turn criminal prosecution into a tool of political combat, which would undermine fundamental freedoms and allow future presidents to target individuals based on their political views rather than actual crimes committed.

The Day After the Trump Trial Verdict

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the potential outcomes and implications of the jury’s verdict in Donald Trump’s hush money and election interference trial in New York. Professor Sarat argues that regardless of the verdict, Trump has been more effective than his critics in shaping public opinion about the trial’s fairness, which may have significant consequences for the 2024 presidential election and beyond.

This Country’s Legal and Political Institutions Are in Trouble, and Trump Likes It That Way

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses former President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on the legal system and Congress, highlighting how his rhetoric exploits and exacerbates the American public's growing mistrust and disillusionment with these institutions. Professor Sarat argues that even if Trump is defeated in the upcoming election, the U.S. must address the underlying issues causing this vulnerability in order to restore public confidence and ensure the survival of American democracy in the face of Trumpism.

Progressives Need to Take the Gloves Off and Play Hardball with Our Rogue Supreme Court

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the increasingly partisan and unethical behavior of the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, providing examples of actions by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas that he argues undermine public trust in the institution. Professor Sarat contends that progressives in Congress need to take more aggressive action, beyond speeches and task forces, to hold the Court accountable and rein in rogue behavior, suggesting they use their oversight powers to subpoena justices and potentially reduce the Court’s budget.

Political Animals: What Kristi Noem’s Dog Killing Says About the Rest of Us

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses Republican politicians, particularly Kristi Noem, and their involvement in controversial incidents related to animal cruelty. Professor Dorf argues that while the outrage directed at these politicians for their mistreatment of individual animals is justified, it is hypocritical for most people to condemn these actions while continuing to participate in a food system that causes immense suffering to billions of animals.

Mike Johnson’s Visit to Columbia Ups the Ante in the Right-Wing Attack on Universities

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses House Speaker Mike Johnson’s recent visit to Columbia University, which Professor Sarat argues is part of a broader right-wing attack on universities, particularly those with elite reputations. Professor Sarat explains that Johnson’s visit, which called for the resignation of Columbia’s president due to alleged antisemitism on campus, was a politically motivated stunt designed to appeal to MAGA Republicans, and that universities must band together to defend their independence against such outside political interference.

President Biden’s Cafeteria Is Open to Everyone

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin discusses the concept of “cafeteria Catholicism,” where some Catholic politicians, such as President Joe Biden, follow certain elements of their faith while diverging from church teachings on other issues, such as, in Biden’s case, abortion rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and contraception. Professor Griffin argues that cafeteria Catholicism is a good thing, as it allows Catholic politicians to govern based on a pluralistic consensus that protects everyone’s rights and freedoms, rather than imposing specific Catholic doctrines on the entire population.

Trump Wants 2024 to Be a Nostalgia Trip. Biden Should Not Take the Bait

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the role of nostalgia in the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign, focusing on how Donald Trump and Joe Biden are framing the contest around voters’ recollections of the past. Professor Sarat argues that while Biden wants voters to remember Trump’s poor handling of the early COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Trump benefits more from nostalgia as voters tend to remember the pre-pandemic economy positively, suggesting that, to prevail, Biden must shift focus to his vision for the future.

Election Denialism 2024, Spring Edition

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses Donald Trump’s long history of making false claims about election fraud and his current warnings about the 2024 presidential election being rigged. Professor Sarat argues that Trump’s baseless allegations are damaging democracy, sowing distrust in the electoral process, and setting the stage for potential unrest if he loses in November.

Judicial Chaos is a Symptom. (Mostly) Asymmetrical Polarization is the Disease

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the Supreme Court’s handling of the Texas v. United States case involving a controversial Texas immigration law, using it as an example of the broader issue of increased polarization and chaos in the federal court system due to the courts’ expanding “shadow docket.” Professor Dorf argues that while both political parties bear some responsibility for this polarization, Republicans have moved much further from centrism, contributing more to the acute political divide that has spread to the courts and is exemplified by the Texas Republicans’ extreme stance on immigration in this case.

Delaying Trump’s Trials Is What Savvy Democrats Should Have Wanted All Along

Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses the conventional wisdom that delays in Donald Trump’s legal cases benefit him politically, as Trump hopes to win the 2024 election before facing legal consequences. However, Professor Buchanan argues that these delays actually help President Joe Biden and the Democrats, and that convictions prior to the election would not significantly harm Trump’s political chances, making the delays the best realistic outcome for those who oppose Trump.

Robert Hur’s Report on Biden Shows How Ageism Works

Amherst professor Austin Sarat criticizes the ageism evident in special counsel Robert Hur’s report on Joe Biden's handling of classified documents, highlighting its undue focus on the President’s age-related memory issues as irrelevant and prejudicial. Professor Sarat argues that such ageism, while pervasive and often ignored, undermines the valuable contributions of older individuals, emphasizing the importance of experience over age-related cognitive decline.

Look Away: How the Supreme Court Could Set Aside Trump’s Disqualification for Insurrection under the Fourteenth Amendment

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold the decisions of the Colorado and Maine courts that disqualified Donald Trump from running for President under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment based on his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mr. Falvy identifies several ways that the Court could rationalize putting Trump back on the ballot and explains the legal and consequential problems with each. In particular, Mr. Falvy criticizes the superficially appealing “let the people decide” line of thought, pointing out that it is actually highly undemocratic and dangerous; indeed, such dictators as Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in France, Adolf Hitler in Germany, and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, each launched a failed coup d’état, endured a short stint in jail, and returned to win power through elections.

Rebel Yell: Why a Civil War Amendment Has Donald Trump Fighting to Keep His Name on the Presidential Ballot

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, examines the constitutional and political implications of a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that disqualified Donald Trump from running for president in 2024, based on his involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mr. Falvy discusses the legal and factual issues that the U.S. Supreme Court will have to resolve in the case, and the potential impact of its decision on the country's future.

Trump and House Republicans’ Heads-I-Win-Tails-You-Lose View of Impeachment

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses Republicans’ political manipulation of the impeachment process, particularly in the context of Donald Trump’s flawed immunity claims and House Republicans’ baseless impeachment investigations against President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Professor Dorf emphasizes that impeachment should be grounded in actual high crimes and misdemeanors, not political disagreements or policy choices.

The Incredible, Inconsistent, Incoherent Legal Arguments About Presidential Immunity Made by Donald Trump’s Lawyer

Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that in Tuesday’s oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Donald Trump’s lawyer, John Sauer, contorted the Constitution’s language to claim presidents have absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts, despite Trump’s impeachment lawyers previously stating presidents could face prosecution once leaving office. Professor Sarat points out that the appeals court judges appeared unconvinced by Sauer’s arguments, questioning how his broad immunity claim aligns with constitutional checks on presidential power.

This Is a Good Time to Revisit Mitch McConnell’s Jurisprudence and Thoughts About Presidential Immunity

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses how Special Counsel Jack Smith’s recent filing regarding Donald Trump’s claim of presidential immunity is grounded in arguments previously made by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. McConnell, on the Senate floor in 2021, recognized Trump’s moral and practical responsibility for the January 6 events, pointed out that impeachment is not the only avenue for accountability, and acknowledged that Trump, as a private citizen, could be subject to criminal and civil litigation for his actions while in office.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall... 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 Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law and Director of the Center of Labor and... 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

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe

Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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