Analysis and Commentary on Politics

Why—and How—President-Elect Trump’s Conflicts of Interest Matter

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why President-elect Donald Trump’s conflicts of interests are problematic for the country. Dorf argues that the primary risk is that a Trump administration will pursue policies that further Trump’s business interests at the expense of the national interest. Dorf also points out two other risks posed by Trump’s conflicts of interest: the possibility of unjust enrichment and the cultural shift that corruption at the top could catalyze.

Trump has Unleashed Forces that Put the Vulnerable at Risk, Which Means the Private Sphere Will Have to Step Up to Protect Them

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, describes three individuals named to lead Donald Trump’s presidency who will threaten already-vulnerable communities. Hamilton argues that Mike Pence, Stephen Bannon, and Jeffrey Sessions are likely to reduce or eliminate the rights of gays, women, minorities, and children over the next four years unless the private sector steps up.

Fixing the Problem of “Faithless” Electors

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar proposes a solution to the problem of the “faithless” elector—a person who pledges to vote in a particular way but then who wants to cast his or her electoral college vote in a different direction. Amar provides specific language that states could implement as law to address these rogue individuals whose actions could alter a presidential election result.

Liberal Activism in the Age of Trump

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf shares some of the lessons he has learned as a vegan animal rights advocate, and explains how they apply to other policy areas. In particular, Dorf argues that in order to build a world in which presidential candidates do not pander to humanity’s basest otherizing instincts, we should aim to persuade our fellow humans of our point of view, not merely to organize to outvote them.

The End Is Nigh! Or Is It?

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies describes the typical pattern in politics of quiescence and backlash. As Margulies explains, it is natural for the supporters of the winning candidate to reach a sense of quiescence after the election, while the supporters of the losing candidate formulate a backlash. Margulies points out that this pattern exists regardless of whether the winning candidate is a Republican or a Democrat.

The Electorate Inadvertently Imposes Real Accountability on Washington Republicans

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how Republicans’ victories for president and both houses of Congress impose real accountability on the Republican party to get things done. Hamilton argues that with Republicans controlling these branches, they have no excuse for failing to fully come through on all the changes they have promised, including replacing Obamacare, building a wall on the Mexican border, creating jobs, and cutting taxes.

Constitutional Lessons From Comey’s Unwise “October Surprise” Decision to Comment on Clinton Investigation Yet Again

Illinois law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar describes three takeaway lessons from FBI Director James Comey’s decision to comment on the ongoing Clinton email investigation a second time. Amar argues that (1) with respect to investigators, sometimes less formal independence means more latitude to act out, (2) the FBI director should not operate outside of DOJ bounds, and (3) the DOJ policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations arises from the Constitution.

Trump’s Final Strategy to Win the White House

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, takes a close look at Donald Trump’s twofold strategy to win the election—Trump’s own electoral map, and his attempts to suppress voters. Dean argues that the only way for Trump to win is to bully his way into the White House, and Dean calls upon Democrats to prevent Trump and his supporters from using physical intimidation to suppress the vote.

Education, the 2016 Election, and the Future

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the connection between an educated society and a successful, effective representative democracy. Hamilton argues that a significant reason that uneducated voters are more likely to vote for Donald Trump than educated voters are highlights this country’s failure to ensure that every student is adequately educated, particularly with respect to government.

Two Big Legal Misconceptions That Have Recently Arisen in the Presidential Race

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and California civil litigation attorney Michael Schaps address two common misconceptions about the relationship between criminal law and politics that recently arose in the presidential race. Amar and Schaps explain first why the presumption of innocence does not apply to politics, and second, why the president actually does have the power to order prosecutions.

The WikiLeaks Nothingburger

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes how news outlets are stretching to try to make news out of the contents of the Clinton campaign emails released by WikiLeaks. Buchanan argues that the emails reveal nothing remarkable or problematic about the Clinton campaign’s inner workings and in fact support her claim of fitness for presidency.

The Fury of the Mob: Comparing the Calls to Prosecute Clinton and Bush

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies compares and contrasts Donald Trump’s call for Hillary Clinton’s imprisonment and the same call against George W. Bush. Although he disagrees with both attempts to seek prosecution, Margulies argues that the call for Clinton’s imprisonment is at best akin to a lynch mob, whereas at least the desire to have Bush prosecuted reflects a good-faith attempt to use the law to punish war crimes.

“Prison for Hillary”

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, comments on Donald Trump’s recent calls for the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton. Dean points out that jailing political opponents is a tactic of dictators, not democracies.

Notorious P.I.G.: Rape Culture Meets Presidential Politics

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah L. Brake analyze the infamous video of Donald Trump boasting about what he can do to women, as well as the response of the Trump campaign. Grossman and Brake argue that Trump’s words in the video, and his non-apology following its release, epitomize the formula that creates rape-prone culture: deny harm, deflect responsibility, and normalize what happened.

Battle of the Sexist: The Implicit, Explicit, and Unrelenting Bias of Trump’s Presidential Campaign

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Boston University law professor Linda C. McClain discuss the sexism that pervades Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Grossman and McClain comment not only on the presidential debates, but also on the bigger question whether (and how) a woman can be perceived as “presidential.”

Federal Investigations of Possible Corrupt Agreements by State Attorneys General who Threaten Criminal Prosecutions

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda argues that, in the interest of protecting free speech, the Attorneys General of New York and Massachusetts should comply with congressional subpoenas investigating whether the state attorneys general are part of a corrupt agreement with private interests seeking to harass. Rotunda argues that the state attorneys general are effectively chilling the free speech of scientists who question the validity of the theory that humans contribute to global warming.

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, a Professor of Law at The George Washington Univ... 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.  Bef... 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 leading church/state scholars in the United States, a Fox Distinguis... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and 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