The Politician Addressing a Law School Commencement is a Democrat

Above the Law performs the useful service of identifying the 2017 law school commencement speakers. It is surely not comprehensive, but it is long and likely representative, because the site solicits information as well as doing its own reporting.

Of the politicians and political appointees, current or former, who are speaking this year, 22 are Democratic elected representatives or officials appointed by Democrats. Two are Republicans. And it is clear that there is close to a rule for choosing Democratic speakers as opposed to Republicans, because the exceptions prove the rule.

You can be a Republican official and a law school commencement speaker if you are Vice President of the United States and your university has a very long established practice of inviting the newly elected President of the United States to be its commencement speaker at its university wide graduation. But because that President was in its view the unacceptable Donald Trump, Notre Dame invited Mike Pence to be the commencement speaker. Now I am not as confident as Above the Law that he is a speaker for the law school itself as well, but even if he is, it is on account of unusual circumstances.

The other Republican official speaking is Alex Acosta at the Florida International University College of Law. He is now Labor Secretary. Until April he had been Dean of the Florida International University College of Law. At least they did not banish the class’s outgoing Dean from commencement because he became a Republican official.

I have not included judges in my accounting, because I think their relation to partisan politics is more complex, but the number of judges appointed by Democrats are much more likely to give a commencement address than those appointed by Republicans. And the law professors invited to give the speeches are uniformly left-liberal.   All those speakers associated with “public interest” groups are also on the left, like the Southern Poverty Law Center. Perhaps the most striking speaker of all is the head of Planned Parenthood at Northeastern. Having as commencement speaker the head of an organization that some of those graduating may think abets the killing of innocents shows how the idea of safe spaces is wholly ideologically defined.

In one sense of course, this selection bias does not matter. Most commencement speeches are eminently forgettable. I had the good luck at college to hear Alexander Solzhenitsyn who challenged conventional wisdom, but most speakers just reinforce it.

Yet the symbolism is telling. The pall of orthodoxy that surrounds so many of our law schools is not only ideological but partisan.

John O. McGinnis

John O. McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern University. His book Accelerating Democracy was published by Princeton University Press in 2012. McGinnis is also the coauthor with Mike Rappaport of Originalism and the Good Constitution published by Harvard University Press in 2013 . He is a graduate of Harvard College, Balliol College, Oxford, and Harvard Law School. He has published in leading law reviews, including the Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford Law Reviews and the Yale Law Journal, and in journals of opinion, including National Affairs and National Review.

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  1. Paul Binotto says

    Perhaps the reason so many Democrats are chosen is because they are all “unemployed” and its the only gig they can get; but I suppose that would only be wishful thinking. 😉

  2. gabe says

    So why bother to go and address those who are openly hostile to you anyway.

    Tempest in a Tea(Party)pot.

    Then again, if you got the bucks, start your own law school.

    In fact, I just decided that I am going to win the Mega=millions Jackpot and fund three different CONSERVATIVE Law Schools.

    (Oops, anyone know how you buy one of these tickets?)

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