Analysis and Commentary on Politics
Why Do We Continue to Use Loaded Words Even When We Know that They Have No Meaning?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explores the frequent phenomenon where people fall back on empty words and phrases, even when they have been convinced that those phrases are empty. Professor Buchanan relates some anecdotes demonstrating the phenomenon and calls for people to relearn and remember when they are saying words that communicate nothing, lest they lapse into reinforcing meaninglessness.

Dear Young People: You WANT Congress to Kick the Can Down the Road on Social Security

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why there is not an impending Social Security crisis, and in fact, anything Congress might do over the next decade or so in response to this nonexistent crisis will actually make matters worse, especially for young people themselves. Professor Buchanan describes why and how journalists misunderstand the Social Security Trustees’ 2021 annual report and argues that if Congress reacts by changing Social Security, it would essentially guarantee that today’s young people would be harmed, even if the Trustees’ forecasts turn out to be wrong.

A Strange Type of Federalism Awaits Us in Republicans’ Upcoming One-Party Autocracy

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan considers the future of federalism when Republicans have forced the United States into a one-party autocracy. Professor Buchanan argues that while conservatives have long claimed to favor states’ rights, they will be unlikely to support states’ rights when Republicans control the federal government and are insulated from competition.

Statehood for D.C. Could Not Be Reversed

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why, if the District of Columbia was recognized as a state, that recognition cannot later be reversed. Professor Buchanan argues that to reverse statehood would signal a slippery slope wherein Republicans would be empowered to go well beyond suppressing votes in swing states to instead removing statehood from regions with Democratic voters.

Dead Democracy Walking

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan describes the United States today as a “dead democracy walking”—walking with mortal wounds but not yet dead. While stating that he is open to the possibility of being proven wrong, Professor Buchanan explains why believes that Trump and Republicans have corrupted the American political system beyond repair, and he notes that his subsequent writings and analysis will proceed from the assumption that democracy will soon be dead in this country.

How Long Will Andrew Cuomo Need to Wait for a Talking Head Gig on CNN or MSNBC?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the possible next steps for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who recently announced his intention to resign amid multiple sexual harassment allegations. Professor Dorf observes that due to the media’s and society’s quick forgive-and-forget mentality, many disgraced politicians and celebrities quickly reemerge in the spotlight, suggesting that we are living in a post-shame society; Cuomo is likely to do the same.

What Andrew Cuomo Has Taught Us About #MeToo

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb reflects on what the resignation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo means about the #MeToo movement. Professor Colb examines the structure of allegations of gendered misconduct, and she points out that the small number of men who victimize women tend to do it repeatedly unless and until someone puts a stop to it once and for all.

Tucker Carlson, Viktor Orban, and the Trump/Republican Embrace of Authoritarian Violence

Amherst College professor Austin Sarat and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut explain what Fox News host Tucker Carlson really means when he praises Hungary and its dictator Viktor Orban. The authors point out that Carlson and many Trump loyalists in the Republican Party want, and seem ready to use violence to achieve, a radical undoing of America that redefines both what this country stands for and what it means to be an American citizen.

The Intensifying Madness on America’s Political Right: A Decade-Long Perspective

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan reflects on the evolution of America’s political right over the past decade, from his first Verdict column almost exactly ten years ago to today. Professor Buchanan points out that his first column discussed the problem of the debt-limit crisis, which he argues was a portent for Republicans’ abandonment of ideas, now turning instead to stoking cultural clashes and fomenting grievances.

What Is the Most Dangerous Part of the Republican Campaign Against Democracy?

Austin Sarat, Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College, describes nefarious Republican efforts to ensure victory in future elections by changing rules governing voting and the vote-counting process. Professor Sarat points out that Republican-dominated state legislatures are devising ways to insert themselves into the vote counting process and replace local election officials with loyal partisans.

Coping with Constitutional Ignorance and Alienation

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—explains why ignorance of the Constitution is more consequential now than ever before, particularly coupled with increasing numbers of Americans who are indifferent or hostile toward democratic norms. Professor Sarat calls upon our leaders to take care to explain why our constitutional democracy is worth fighting for and to take up that fight every day.

The Latest Front in the Republican War on Democracy

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—comments on efforts by Republicans in 32 states to restrict the ballot initiative and voter referendum processes—two key levers of direct democracy. Professor Sarat describes origins and development of these processes in our country and argues that the opportunity for citizens to vote directly on the policies that affect their lives is an important democratic tradition that must be preserved.

Go Ahead and Cancel Me, You Erasing, Censorious Silencers; Also . . . Woke!

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan argues that the terms “cancel culture,” “wokeness,” and the like have come to mean only that the person using them does not like something that is being said or done. Professor Buchanan describes how these epithets are simply today’s (much more quickly adopted) versions of the 1990’s political correctness and “PC police”—all political tools for claiming victimhood.

Will Biden Finally Neuter Republicans’ Debt Ceiling Demagoguery?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to apparent plans by some Republicans to bring back the debt ceiling to obstruct the Biden administration. Professor Buchanan explains why that would be a bad idea and also why, if they do, President Biden might be able to kill the debt ceiling as a political issue.

There Are Many Different Ways to Lose Our Democracy

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan describes the precarious situation of our democracy and notes that there are many necessary conditions for a constitutional republic to continue to operate, and because each is necessary, losing any of them would lead to the whole system crashing down. In this column, Professor Buchanan points out some of the many ways in which our nation could descend into autocracy.

Reforming Presidential Pardons: Possible and Necessary, but How High a Priority?

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is not only possible and necessary to reform the president’s constitutional pardon power, but why doing so should be a high priority. Professor Buchanan argues that preventing future abuses of the pardon is critical to preventing its use as a tool of autocracy.

To Protect Independence of Inspectors General, Make Them Part of Congress

Guest columnist and former U.S. Congressman Brad Miller comments on recent reports that the Trump administration hindered and delayed investigations by inspectors general. Mr. Miller argues that to ensure that the inspectors general be able to do their job of preventing abuse of power, corruption, and incompetence, they should be made part of the Legislative Branch, rather than the Executive Branch.

How Not to Criticize the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf responds to three broad-based objections by Republican opponents to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: (1) that the already-recovering economy doesn’t need stimulus; (2) that many of the Act’s provisions have nothing to do with COVID-19; and (3) that there will be waste, fraud, and abuse. Professor Dorf explains why these objections ring hollow and argues that while the Act is not perfect legislation and will likely face challenges in implementation, it is a much better option than anything Republicans were offering.

Would Senate Republicans Abandon Their Baseless Arguments if There Were a Secret Ballot?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether a secret ballot is a good idea, or even permissible, in former President Trump’s impeachment trial. Professor Buchanan ultimately takes no position on the question of a secret ballot, suggesting that it might simply be an easy way out for Senate Republicans; he argues that what matters most is that the trial go forward, revealing an open-and-shut case against Donald Trump.

Last Call at the Bar: Grading the Briefs in Trump Impeachment 2.0

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, offers thoughts on the legal tactics and briefs filed by each side in former President Trump’s second impeachment trial. Mr. Falvy argues that if Trump can survive a second impeachment vote, it will show that he is still operating where he has always believed himself to be: well beyond the reach of the law.

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

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

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government 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

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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