Analysis and Commentary on Politics
Yes, Trump Is (Still) Engaged in an Attempted Coup; and Yes, It Might Lead to a Constitutional Crisis and a Breaking Point

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why Donald Trump’s actions reflect an attempted coup and might still lead to a constitutional crisis. In this column, Buchanan first explains what a coup is and describes the ways that Trump has failed in his attempts thus far. Buchanan warns about how all this could still end in a constitutional crisis that Trump creates and exploits to stay in power.

Update on Trump’s Coup: Do Not Think That This Is Guaranteed to End Well

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why “being patient with Trump” is a recipe for disaster, why there are still reasons to be guardedly optimistic, and why this all could still end very badly. Buchanan argues that the present situation is not guaranteed end badly, but he cautions that a Trump coup is eminently possible.

The Coronavirus and the Election: Trump’s Fateful Decisions Are Shocking and Disqualifying

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why President Trump’s inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic should disqualify him from even running for reelection, let alone returning to office. Buchanan argues that it is shocking that we cannot predict the outcome of the 2020 election in light of Trump’s failure to address the biggest health crisis in a century and his consistent efforts to undermine the public response every step of the way.

How in the World Can Republicans Think the Economy Is Their Strong Suit?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan debunks the Republican claim that Donald Trump and Republican leaders have handled (and are handling) the economy well. Buchanan points out that the only action that Trump and his party had taken on the economy before the pandemic was a two-trillion-dollar tax cut in 2017, which was weighted toward the rich and unpopular among the American public. Buchanan notes that even before the pandemic hit, workers were living in fear that their families would be destroyed by a medical catastrophe, and it is even worse now.

The Fate of American Democracy May Depend on the Willingness of Democratic Governors to Fight Fiercely after the November 3 Election

In anticipation of a contested election outcome in November, Amherst College Associate Provost Professor Austin Sarat and attorney Daniel B. Edelman call upon Democratic governors to forward a slate of electors that reflects the preference of the greatest number of voters in their states, regardless of what their legislatures might do. Sarat and Edelman argue that the fate of American democracy may depend on these governors.

Racism, Rage, and Raw Political Power: Revisiting the Motivations of Trump’s Supporters

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan develops his argument that the only plausible reasons Republicans continue to support President Trump are “bigotry and raw political power.” In this follow-up column, Buchanan explores these explanations a bit further, drawing in part from incensed reader responses to his previous column.

“Might as Well Carry a Purse with That Mask, Joe”: COVID-19, Toxic Masculinity, and the Sad State of National Politics

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Boston University law professor Linda C. McClain comment on COVID-19, toxic masculinity, and the state of national politics today. Grossman and McClain contrast President Trump’s reckless bravado that endangers the lives of Americans with the empathy of Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden’s in asking people to be patriotic by doing their part by wearing masks to protect other Americans.

A Somewhat Optimistic View of the Possible Constitutional Crisis of 2020

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan reflects on the contributions of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to tax law jurisprudence and discusses the potential chaos that faces our country in the upcoming elections. Although he expresses cautious optimism that law and the American public together should prevent a constitutional crisis, Buchanan warns that we should all be frightened by the fact that the election can still be stolen if enough carefully placed Republican partisans are willing to upend our constitutional democracy.

No, Republicans Cannot Throw the Presidential Election into the House so that Trump Wins

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf, and Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe explain why President Trump’s plan to win the election through a forced decision by the U.S. House of Representatives relies on an incorrect reading of the plain text of the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution. The authors argue, even in a best-case scenario for Trump, in which the electoral votes of Pennsylvania are thrown out, Biden would still win with a majority of the resulting electoral votes and the House would simply not have the legal authority to vote on an election that had already been decided.

Is Anyone Surprised That Our Norm-Busting President Ignored the Debate Rules?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on last night’s presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Biden. Dorf observes that Trump’s repeated violations of the agreed-upon rules of the debate; his outrageous substantive comments refusing to condemn white supremacy (and instead naming a specific white supremacist group) and declining to say he would accept the outcome of the election; and his callous response to Biden’s mention of Biden’s deceased son Beau should alert any yet unaware Americans to the fact that Trump has no sense of decency.

The Coming Constitutional Coup

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—describes how President Trump has laid the groundwork for a post-election coup d'ètat. Sarat points to Republicans’ intimidating voters from minority groups and others likely to vote Democratic, Trump’s shaping the federal judiciary with approximately 200 new judges, his pre-election statements, and the litigation already in progress as evidence of his plan to carry out a post-election coup by and through, not against, the law.

Republicans’ Blind Support for Trump Is NOT About Judges and Tax Cuts but About Bigotry and Raw Power

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan examines the flaws in the theory that Republicans’ support for Trump is about judges and tax cuts. Rather, Buchanan argues, they support his bigotry and his efforts to dismantle our democracy.

Democracy Is on the Ballot: One Party Defends It, The Other Would Let It Die

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—explains why the 2020 Democratic National Convention was unlike any other political gathering in American history for reasons beyond its virtual platform. Sarat argues that the future of American democracy lies in the balance, and when we vote in November, it will be up to us whether democracy lives or dies.

Economic Theory Shows that People Will Make Choices that Worsen the Pandemic

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan points out some of the ways in which congressional Republicans misunderstand economics to justify withholding unemployment payments from Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Buchanan argues that economic theory soundly demonstrates that given the opportunity, people will make choices that worsen the toll of the pandemic.

Dear House Judiciary Committee: In Questioning William Barr, Employ the Ethics Complaint That 27 Distinguished DC Lawyers Filed Wednesday

Frederick Baron, former associate deputy attorney general and director of the Executive Office for National Security in the Department of Justice, Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, and Austin Sarat, Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College, call upon the House Judiciary Committee to carefully read the ethics complaint by 27 distinguished DC lawyers against William Barr before questioning him today, July 28, 2020.

The Selfie Coup: How to Tell If Your Government Is Plotting to Overthrow Itself

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, describes how to tell whether a government is plotting to overthrow itself—a phenomenon he calles a “Selfie Coup.” Falvy explains the difference between a Selfie Coup and creeping authoritarianism by providing examples of both and argues that the more aware civil society is of the possibility of a Selfie Coup, the more likely it can prepare its defenses in time to prevent it.

Trump’s Dubious Use of Clemency Relies on Its Most Conventional Idiom

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on President Trump’s commutation of the sentence of Roger Stone. Sarat observes the pattern of Trump using his exclusive power of clemency to help those who, like Stone, committed crimes that show disdain for the legal process, and he argues that Trump seems “incapable of grasping the meaning of mercy or of understanding its place in a decent society.”

Trump Turns History Into a Culture War Battlefield

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on President Trump’s Fourth of July speeches, in which the President described a nation at war with itself and its legacy. Sarat points out the irony of Trump accusing others of lying about or attempting to erase the past, and he notes that Trump’s own distortion of historical facts is a tactic that authoritarian, fascist, and totalitarian regimes have used in the past to legitimize the regime or erase inconvenient truths.

Notes on an Oral Argument: The Questions Asked, the Answers Given, and What They May Augur for the Supreme Court’s Decision in the Congressional Subpoena Cases

Touro law professor Rodger D. Citron analyzes the oral arguments in the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding demands for President Trump’s financial records. Citron explains why it seems likely that the Court will reverse the lower courts’ decisions refusing to quash the House committee subpoenas and offers a number of observations based on his review of the transcript.

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 Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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