Analysis and Commentary on Politics

A Federal Court Looks at Wisconsin’s Political War

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on a federal lawsuit that seeks to halt Wisconsin’s inquiry into potential abuses or misuses of that state’s campaign finance laws. Dean describes Wisconsin’s “John Doe” investigations and explains the significance of a federal district judge’s denial of a motion to dismiss a case challenging one such proceeding that relates to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Just Shy of Bribery: The Roberts Court Embraces Francis Underwood’s View of Washington

Justia columnist and Cornell Law professor Michael Dorf critiques the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Comm’n striking down aggregate limits on individual contributions to political campaigns. Dorf argues that the Court’s plurality opinion is poorly reasoned and disregards the broader purpose of aggregate limits: to prevent wealthy donors from buying Congress as a whole.

Impeachment Insanity Has Consequences

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean describes a recent trend of hard-right conservatives using the impeachment process as a weapon against government officials with whom they have mere political differences. Dean comments on the “Impeach Obama” movement and explains why it is unfounded and dangerous. He explains how the trend is now also starting to affect state officials, and he cautions that the impeachment movement could have serious consequences and cause significant problems that its advocates seem not to understand.

Internal Investigations Can Resolve Scandals

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean contends that internal investigations can be one effective way in which an institution's scandal might dissipate and the relevant institution may move on. Dean supports his provocative thesis with a number of intriguing examples.

The False Choice of Old Versus Young in American Budgetary Politics

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan debunks the common claim that we spend too much money on seniors and too little on children. Conservatives and “centrist” Democrats claim that, because of this supposed disparity, Social Security and Medicare are too generous and must be cut. In fact, Buchanan explains, our country puts a lot more of its resources into children than we generally understand, but most of it is hidden from view.

Bridgegate: Thoughts on the Nature of Scandals

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the nature of scandals generally, and on Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal in particular—which arose from Christie’s and/or his aide’s decision to close a lane of the George Washington Bridge. Dean suggests that the Bridgegate scandal, rather than winding down, may well be just getting started.

The Short, Unhappy Life of a Republican Attack Line, and Its Angry Aftermath

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan thoroughly debunks the oft-cited Republican claim that Obamacare will “kill” millions of jobs. Moreover, Buchanan points to some of the important pluses of Obamacare, such as the end of “job lock,” which occurs when a worker is stuck in a job he or she wants to leave, but cannot do so due to the fear of losing his or her health insurance.

Debt by Any Other Name: Even If the President Were to Default on Our Obligations, He Would Still Violate the Debt Ceiling

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the latest iteration of the ongoing debt ceiling melodrama. However, Buchanan points out that we need not endure all these iterations, given the basic point that the debt ceiling is flatly unconstitutional. Buchanan contends that President Obama should long ago have simply said that the debt ceiling cannot supersede the spending and taxing laws that Congress has passed. Here, Buchanan and fellow Justia columnist Michael Dorf, a Cornell law professor, offer a new analysis, contending that Congress has already guaranteed that the President will violate the debt ceiling, even if he tries not to do so.

The Great Inequality Debate, and the Reemergence of Distribution as a Respectable Subject of Discussion

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the subject of income inequality in America, now a key topic once again. Buchanan criticizes President Obama's belated embrace of equality, and the actions of those whom Buchanan describes as the self-styled pragmatists and centrists who dragged Democrats to the right.

“Bridgegate” Or “Bridgetgate”? And Other Unanswered Questions

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the serious and building scandal that New Jersey Governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has on his hands, regarding allegations that he and/or his staff knowingly used their power for political reasons—specifically to allegedly close two toll booth lanes onto the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution.

Some Political and Constitutional Questions Raised by Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” Plan to Split Up California

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram Amar comments on Silicon Valley billionaire investor Tim Draper's proposed plan to divide up California into six separate states, on the ground that California’s diverse population and economies currently render the state nearly ungovernable. In this column, Amar spots and preliminarily analyzes some of the major issues that may arise regarding Draper's plan. (If and when the proposed measure successfully moves through various stages of the political process, Amar will likely offer a more detailed analysis of many of the questions that the plan raises.)

President Obama Should Not Put the Fed in the Middle of 2014’s Debt Ceiling Madness

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan argues that, in the inevitable 2014 debt-ceiling fight, unless President Obama changes his approach, the Fed will be forced to spend enormous political capital defending the financial system. The damage that would then ensue, Buchanan notes, could take decades to fix, if it could be fixed at all.

The Next Debt Ceiling Crisis Can Be Prevented If Democrats Learn From Filibuster Reform

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan describes a way in which America can avoid another debt-ceiling crisis in 2014. Indeed, Buchanan points out that there is now a clear political path by which the Democrats could neutralize that threat. Moreover, the Constitution, he points out, is on the Democrats’ side, and their recent experience with the fight over the Senate’s filibuster rules should give the Democrats the confidence they need to move forward.

Who Benefits From Filibuster Reform?

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf explains the politics behind filibuster reform, in the wake of the elimination of the rule requiring a supermajority vote to end debate—and thus to move to a merits vote—on presidential nominations to the lower federal courts and executive offices.

Will Extreme Conservatives Ever Break With Ultra-Extreme Conservatives?

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on possible fault lines within the Republican party, specifically affecting extreme and ultra-extreme conservatives. Buchanan also asks an interesting question: What would it take for supposedly “reasonable” conservatives finally to give up on the extreme modern Republican Party? And, on a personal note, Buchanan describes the changes in political leanings in his own family as they related to changes in the Republican Party.

Is Republican Obstructionism Criminal?

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on whether current Republican obstructionism could be charged as a federal crime. In particular, Dean questions whether Section 371 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the government of the United States, applies here. Dean concludes, however, for interesting reasons, that, even if Section 371 could apply, no criminal charges ought to be brought.

If the Debt Ceiling Is Reached, the President Will Be Forced to Go It Alone, But the Fed Could Save the Day

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan clarifies how many people’s—including many journalists’—failure to truly understand the context of the impending debt ceiling disaster causes them to misunderstand both the President’s choice between defaulting and not defaulting, and his possible strategies if he chooses to avoid default. Buchanan also explains how the Federal Reserve could play the ultimate savior’s role in the crisis. He also offers a driving metaphor to explain the situation that President Obama faces, and why he may legitimately need to break the rules to solve it.

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 and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... 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 con... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Befo... 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 the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavi... 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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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