Analysis and Commentary on Politics

Does Boredom Explain Some of Trump’s Appeal?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the American public's enduring fascination with Donald Trump, and explains how the social science of boredom may be at play in it. Dorf highlights studies that explain this phenomenon from distinct angles, and applies the findings to the general voting populace as a means of explaining why people just cannot seem to get enough of Trump, regardless of whether they agree with his politics.

Trump’s Anatomy Is More Relevant Than You Think

In light of Donald Trump’s recent comments about his anatomical endowment, Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the role of virility—and perceived virility—among prior American presidents and other world leaders of history. Dorf points out that while some studies suggest popular perception of one male candidate as “more manly” than another might give him an edge up, analysis shows that result cannot necessarily be extrapolated to predict male versus female elections.

Dueling Delusions

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the current plight of the Republican party and the role of Donald Trump in that trajectory. Margulies focuses on the delusions that bedevil the GOP and points to the symbols in which the party refuses to believe and on which it simultaneously depends.

The Grave Risks of the Senate Republicans’ Stated Refusal to Process any Supreme Court Nominee President Obama Sends Them

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes some of the risks Senate Republicans will face if they refuse to process any Supreme Court nominee that President Obama sends them, as they have claimed they would. Among these risks, Amar argues, are the possibility that a President Hillary Clinton might appoint Obama to the Supreme Court, that the Democrats could take over the Senate and approve a nominee that a Republican-controlled Senate would not have approved, or even that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg could retire under a Democrat-controlled Senate, giving President Obama three places on the Court to fill with liberal justices.

The Kasich Moderation Burlesque

George Washington University law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his series of columns evaluating presidential candidates’ claims of being moderate by looking at Ohio governor John Kasich. Buchanan cautions that although as governor Kasich accepted a Medicaid expansion for Ohio and acknowledges climate change, his actions and words with respect to issues such as abortion, the Affordable Care Act, and the federal budget—among others—reflect extreme conservative views, not moderate ones.

Senate Republicans Offer Laughable Reasons for Refusing to Confirm an Obama Supreme Court Nominee

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf explains why Republicans’ claims that President Obama lacks democratic legitimacy in appointing a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Dorf points out that the reasons offered thus far for refusing to confirm an Obama nominee seem to imply that originalism/formalism can be validated or invalidated by popular approval, even absent a constitutional amendment.

Enough

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on Donald Trump’s recent declaration that not only does he support torture, but that if he becomes president, he would utilize it more, regardless of whether it “works.” Margulies explores these statements as well as the identity of those who support him and his views.

When Judicial and Presidential Politics Collide

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the likely political and legal consequences of the recent passing of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Margulies predicts that, due to the ongoing presidential campaign, anyone President Obama nominates to fill the vacancy might become both a partisan tool in presidential politics and also a symbol for the future of America.

Republicans Will Not Seriously Try to Sell Marco Rubio as a Moderate, Will They?

In this first of a series of columns evaluating presidential candidates’ claims of being moderate, George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Marco Rubio is extremely conservative on both social and economic issues. Buchanan points to Rubio’s position on such social issues as reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, gun control, and economic issues such as tax policy and the federal budget.

What War Is Good For

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf reviews Sidney Tarrow’s new book, War, States, and Contention. Dorf considers how Tarrow’s view of the role of contentious politics applies in the current political campaign and examines the relation between national security and domestic social movements.

Homespun Wisdom (and Wrongheadedness) in Iowa on the Treatment of Muslims

Illinois Law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar evaluates three people’s statements regarding America’s treatment of Muslims: President Obama, an Iowa businessman, and a local Muslim cleric (an imam). Amar points out that Donald Trump’s proposal that America ban all Muslims from entering the country is vastly underinclusive (because the great majority of violent acts in this country are perpetrated by non-Muslims), and at the same time very overinclusive (because the overwhelming majority of Muslims who want to enter the United States intend no harm)—two indicators of legal and moral unfairness.

Godly Rhetoric in Presidential Campaigns: Cruz, Rubio, and Reagan

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the use of religious terms in among the Republican presidential candidates, particularly terms that refer to a specific religio-political world view. Hamilton especially critiques Cruz’s and Rubio’s invocation of Ronald Reagan’s name, pointing out that Reagan tried to bring Americans together in his speeches, even in his references to God.

Have Democrats Rediscovered Unions Too Late?

Neil H. Buchanan, a law professor and economist at George Washington University, comments on the recent trend of mainstream liberal opinion makers to express public support for labor unions. Buchanan explains the tumultuous history of liberals and labor unions, and he wonders whether this overdue support is too little too late, in light of a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans Should Learn From Flint That Governing on the Cheap Costs Too Much

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses a set of issues raised by an op-ed on the public health emergency in Flint, Michigan, written by one of former president George W. Bush’s speechwriters. Buchanan argues that one of the takeaway lessons is that the government—and particularly the federal government—plays an essential role in responding adequately when disaster strikes.

At This Point, Would Any Republican Ever Leave the Party?

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether any Republican would ever leave the party in light of the increasingly extremist views of the influential party leaders. Buchanan concludes that it is highly unlikely, for a number of reasons, that even Donald Trump could drive away moderate Republicans from the GOP in any permanent sense.

What Trump’s Call to Ban Muslims Is Telling Us About Authoritarian Politics

Former counsel to the president John W. Dean argues that Donald Trump’s campaign is showing to the national public what authoritarian politics is all about. Dean ultimately says that he does not find Trump’s rhetoric threatening, because an authoritarian such as Trump—even if he secures the nomination—cannot find broad enough voter support across the country.

Donald Trump and the Need for Civil, Accurate Discourse

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that Donald Trump and his extreme comments illustrate the need for civil, accurate discourse, rather than blunderbuss and showmanship. Hamilton points to the work by the Program in Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania, which is conducting a social experiment that shows that people from different sides of the political/religious divide can have a meaningful conversation and reach agreement for the common good.

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 and the Paul R. V... 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