Analysis and Commentary on Politics
Disaster Relief to States and Cities Is Both Right and Good: Part 1 of 2

In this first of a series of columns about federal relief to state and local governments, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan provides the economic background to explain how unprecedented these times are and argues that supporting cities and states is essential to surviving this crisis.

Supreme Court Reverses “Bridgegate” Convictions

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court reversing the convictions of two New Jersey officials for their role in the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal of 2013. Although the Court made clear that the underlying conduct was dangerous and wrong, its holding reversing the convictions may effectively permit corrupt bullies to continue to exercise political power, due in part to inadequate responses from other political actors.

Department of Justice Once Again Proves Its Loyalty to the President, Not the Rule of Law

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on the recent news that the Justice Department will seek dismissal of charges against Michael Flynn. Sarat suggests that because the decision does not seem to advance the fair administration of justice in this case, the court should take the unusual step of refusing to grant the prosecutor’s motion to dismiss.

Believe All Women or Support Joe Biden?

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on recent sexual assault allegations against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Colb argues that if the only choices for President are Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the sexual assault allegation against the latter will take second fiddle to the need to defeat the former and defends this perspective as not manifesting hypocrisy or indifference to sexual assault or other intimate violence.

Conservative Authoritarianism Comes Out of the Shadows

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on Harvard Law Professor Adrian Vermeule’s essay “Beyond Originalism,” which Sarat argues brings conservative authoritarianism out of the shadows. Sarat describes Vermeule as a modern-day Machiavelli, offering advice to the governing class and laying out a theory of governance Vermeule calls “common-good constitutionalism” but which in reality elevates the “common good” above individual goods in a manner antithetical to freedom, pluralism, and democracy.

The Simple Message of Tolerance That Eludes President Trump

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies calls upon President Trump to condemn the rise of anti-Asian calumny and violence and contrasts Trump’s actions today with those of President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks. Margulies points out that immediately after 9/11, President Bush defined national identity in the language of equality and tolerance, stressing that Muslims and Arab-Americans were not the enemy.

The Framers Would Have Been Appalled but Unsurprised by the President’s Failure to Get the COVID-19 Crisis Under Control: They Would Tell Him to Get Moving Now

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, criticizes the Trump administration’s failure to adequately handle the national coordination of efforts to get the COVID-19 crisis under control. Hamilton points out that the Framers of the Constitution anticipated that the country would face emergencies and intentionally consolidated power in a single President to make decisions to unify and protect the nation.

The Oldest Republican Pander in the Book: “Do It for Our Children and Grandchildren”

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan reacts to a comment by Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick that older people should be “willing to take a chance on [their] survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for [their] children and grandchildren.” Buchanan points out that Patrick’s suggestion has been rightly mocked but that it is not usual for Republicans to claim, hypocritically, that older people should make sacrifices for younger generations.

What Should Democrats Do About Republicans’ Insistence on Lining Their Own Pockets With the Stimulus Plan?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses the ongoing negotiations in Congress over the stimulus bill that would purportedly start to address the present economic crisis. Buchanan argues that while Democrats are right to try to stop Republicans from writing a huge unrestricted corporate handout into the bill, they will have to agree to something quickly—and the sooner the better.

Can the Republicans Cancel the Elections, Even Though Trump Can’t?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether (and how) President Trump or his supporters in Congress could cancel the 2020 elections, citing public safety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Buchanan points out that because states control the procedures for the election, Trump would need Republican governors of certain blue states to shut down their state’s elections—something Buchanan stops short of saying is likely or unlikely.

When Is Optimism Actually Pessimism? When Trump Is President

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his discussion considering the future of the rule of law in the United States. Buchanan argues that even assuming a “long arc of American political history,” knowing that eventually, another group of heroes might rise is comforting only in a vague sense.

Another Attempt to Find Optimism in American Politics

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan continues his series of columns attempting to find optimism in what he describes as “post-constitutional life in America.” In this installment, Buchanan notes that President Trump’s reactions to COVID-19 are a reason for optimism because they reflect a fear that a pandemic (and market responses to a pandemic) could threaten his hold on the White House.

Searching for Even Slim Reeds of Optimism That This is Not the End of the Rule of Law in America

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan offers two possible reasons for cautious optimism that the rule of law survives under President Trump: (1) Trump continues to lie, and (2) even the most potentially unreliable Democrats have not (yet?) decided to stop opposing him.

How Much Worse Will Trump Become, and How Quickly?

Neil H. Buchanan, law professor and economist at UF Levin College of Law, contemplates the world in which we are likely to live if, as Buchanan argues is inevitable, President Trump refuses to leave office even after losing the 2020 election. Focusing in this column on the effects on government employees and contractors, Buchanan predicts that our society will be almost unimaginably worse a year from today and thereafter.

Dead Letter Office: What’s Left of the Impeachment Power After Trump’s Acquittal

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, discusses what happens now, after Senate Republicans voted to acquit President Trump. Falvy predicts that (1) President Trump will be emboldened to commit further abuses of power, (2) future presidents will be less constrained by fear of impeachment, and (3) impeachment may become more routine as political practice and significantly less effective as a constitutional remedy.

What Else Might Senate Republicans Have Done, Given That They’re Too Scared to Do the Right Thing?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether there is anything Senate Republicans might have done, instead of outright acquitting President Trump, to maintain the role of Congress as a coequal branch with the Executive. Buchanan proposes that under the text of the impeachment clauses, those Republican senators could have voted for removal—the necessary result of finding wrongdoing—but permitted Trump to run again in the election later this year.

The Real Insidious Part of Dershowitz’s Impeachment Defense

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker discuss Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s explanation of why he stands (virtually) alone in his views on impeachment—that all the scholars who disagree with him are biased partisans. Amar and Caminker explain why this claim is so insidious, with effects lasting well beyond the span of the current presidency.

The Law Will Not Save Us

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies reminds us that the rule of law exists in the United States primarily to conceal politics; that is, one cannot rely on having “the law” on one’s side if politics are opposed. Margulies illustrates this point by replacing “the lawyers reviewed the law and decided” with “the high priests studied the entrails and decided”—a substitution that ultimately yields the same results.

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