Analysis and Commentary on Politics
What Role, If Any, Should Hatred Play in the Justice Department’s Investigation of Donald Trump?

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on remarks by former President Donald Trump that Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to supervise the Justice Department’s investigation of Trump, is motivated by hatred of Trump. Professor Sarat points out that Trump’s perception that those who oppose him hate him epitomizes narcissism and that psychologists have characterized Trump as personalizing every conflict and seeing every political relationship as transactional.

Arizona Is a New Death Penalty Battleground State

Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that Arizona’s new attorney general—Kris Mayes—should now seize her opportunity to make good on her promise to put a pause on all executions in that state. Professor Sarat describes Arizona’s recent spate of botched executions and calls upon Mayes to support a death-row inmate’s withdrawal of his request be executed, thereby making Arizona the latest state to confront the troubling issues that have plagued the death penalty across the country.

To Become Speaker, McCarthy Undercuts Law, Order, and Country

Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argue that newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy chose ambition over law, order, and country. Professor Tribe and Mr. Aftergut describe how Speaker McCarthy’s concessions to the radical Republicans put us over the brink and seriously endanger democracy.

Why 2022’s Last Election-Denier Loss Matters

Former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut explain why the victory of Kris Mayes over Republican election-denier Abe Hamadeh in the race for Arizona Attorney General is so important to the entire country. Mr. Harshbarger and Mr. Aftergut provide four reasons Mayes’s victory is crucial and how it illustrates why every vote matters.

George Santos and the Right of Candidates to Lie

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the revelation that George Santos, who is scheduled to take the oath of office as a new member of Congress tomorrow, lied about nearly his entire biography. Professor Dorf explains why the First Amendment likely prevents candidates from being held criminally liable for their lies, but he points out other ways we can sanction candidates who blatantly lie to gain office.

Merrick Garland Stays on Offense Against Trumpist Violence

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on Monday’s news that the January 6 committee approved criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump, John Eastman, and others. Mr. Aftergut argues that consistent prosecution and conviction of those who engage in political violence—not only those who participated on January 6, but also those who have done so afterwards—are vital to deterring future disorder.

Kari Lake, Trump’s Election-Denial Darling, Sticks with a Losing Script

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes how unsuccessful Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake is following Donald Trump’s script for election denialism. Mr. Aftergut describes the four steps former President Trump followed in his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election and predicts that courts will reject Kari Lake’s attempts to do the same.

How Dead is Dead? Democracy is in Slightly Less Danger Today Than It Was a Week Ago

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether the outcome of last week’s election should cause him to revise his description of the United States as a “dead democracy walking.” He argues that while things do look slightly better, the odds are still incredibly long against our survival as a constitutional republic.

How Trump’s Supreme Court Helped Save American Democracy from Trump

Amherst professor Austin Sarat explains how the Supreme Court that Donald Trump refashioned paradoxically prompted Americans to reassert the values of democracy. Professor Sarat points out that the Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization eliminating the constitutional right to abortion was one of the driving factors behind the large numbers of Americans voting in the midterm election.

Political Violence in the United States, Part Two of Two

In this first of a two-part series of columns about the reality and threat of political violence in the United States, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan assesses the current political situation and its implications for the immediate future. Professor Buchanan argues that, with respect to the long-term threat of political violence, the Republicans’ surprisingly narrow victory might not be the silver lining that liberals and progressives have been celebrating since Tuesday evening.

Three Reasons the Midterms Were Good for Courts

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes three pieces of news from Tuesday’s elections that Americans who value the Constitution should celebrate. Specifically, Mr. Aftergut highlights the defeat of key state gubernatorial election deniers, the continued confirmation of federal court judges, and the affirmation by voters of their faith in the evidence-based work that courts do.

Voters’ Misplaced Trust in Republicans on Inflation and the Broader Economy

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why voters should not expect Republicans to do a better job than Democrats handling inflation and the broader economy, and in fact will likely permanently weaken the U.S. economy and the U.S. as an actor on the world stage. Professor Dorf describes why the current Republicans are different from those in the past, and why they pose a unique threat of holding the entire global economy hostage unless Congress enacts and the President signs their radically conservative agenda into law.

Jim Jordan Puts the FBI’s Future on the Ballot

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the House Judiciary Committee minority members’ staff report in which Republican members of the committee are seeking to undermine the FBI by portraying it as partisan and dishonest. Mr. Aftergut points out that the report disregards facts in an attempt—consistent with other Republican efforts—to confuse the public about who is telling the truth so that ordinary people busy with their lives disengage and give up trying to figure out the facts. He argues that if Republicans achieve a majority in Tuesday’s midterm election, they will turn America’s premier law enforcement agency into a McCarthy-esque inquisitorial tool in their anticipated Republican presidential administration.

The Federal Courts’ Future Is on the Ballot

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut explains the stakes of the upcoming election with respect to the shape and legitimacy of the federal courts. Mr. Aftergut points to numerous recent examples of federal district courts and courts of appeals fulfilling their role as factfinders and seekers of truth amid a country awash in election lies and conspiracy theories.

Lindsay Graham’s Gambit Is the Next Step Toward a Nationwide Abortion Ban

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on Senator Lindsay Graham’s proposed national 15-week abortion ban. Professor Sarat points out that the proposed bill contradicts his—and other anti-abortion Republicans, including Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade—claim that the question of abortion should be decided by each state legislature.

Biden’s Democracy Speech Highlights the New American Dilemma, Violence or Voting

Amherst professor Austin Sarat praises President Biden’s speech last Thursday as a much-needed reminder that Americans should settle their differences through voting not violence. Professor Sarat points out that today’s threat of political violence comes overwhelmingly from the political right, not the left, and from people who are not “lone wolves” but part of a broader community that echoes their violent ideas.

Answering My Hate Mail: Democracy, Anger, and the Goldilocks Dilemma

Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies responds to an angry reader’s email response to his previous column, observing that anger can be a productive and healthy emotion but can also be all-consuming and destructive. Professor Margulies suggests that arguing over whose anger is righteous and whose is not is not productive; instead, we need something that strides above the arguments, a set of ideals against which we can measure whether a particular species of anger is one that society should honor and encourage.

The Complicity of the ‘Comfortable Liberals’ in the Decline of American Constitutional Democracy

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan points out that some Democratic elites are complicit in the decline of American constitutional democracy when they support conservative policies and talking points in order to preserve their own personal comfort. Professor Buchanan points to the acceptance of the empty idea of “cancel culture” and the rejection of progressive prosecutors as two examples of this complicity.

Three Questions that the House Select Committee’s Spellbinding Second Hearing Asks All of Us

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes three future-oriented questions the House Select Committee investigating January 6 poses to all Americans: (1) Do we choose to live in a fact-based world? (2) Do we recognize the danger that Trump’s continuing Big Lie poses to our ability to choose our own leaders? And (3) if we do, will we demand accountability for those whose misdeeds still threaten us?

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

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

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 Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... 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