The fundamental constitutional question presented by the case of United States v. Texas is not whether the President is constitutionally required to enforce immigration laws (he is), but whether the Supreme Court is constitutionally empowered to police every constitutional dispute. If it decides to do the work of Congress and restrain the executive, it will, more than it did in Cooper v. Aaron (1958), proclaim a doctrine of judicial supremacy over constitutional questions.
The year was 1988, the first presidential election in which I was eligible to vote, and the trauma is still nearly too much to recount. The duo, brothers, arrived at my dormitory room at the University of Texas, hauled me from the intensity of my studies and dragged me to a polling place, where one wrenched my left arm behind my back and the other bodily placed the right on the voting machine and, depressing the lever, made my choice. As they released me into the chill and black of a November night, I demanded their names. “Koch,” they replied, their snarls announcing they made no apologies and felt no remorse.
The presidential nominating contests continue to befuddle prognosticators, but the consensus winner of the Syntactical Caucus of 2016 is already in. Whether Republican or Democrat, the next President will almost certainly display an unreasoning proclivity for the first person singular.
Donald Trump does not say things that are unpopular. Every time we see him speaking in front of an audience, that audience is clapping. He says things that anger elites and about which, often, events seem to confirm the seeds of his base’s opinions. It should therefore be unsurprising that the elite’s rejection and disdain inflame rather than calm the Trump phenomenon. The contemptuous response is not useful. The Madisonian one is.
The Trump phenomenon—whose latest instantiation is his outright lie about hordes of Jersey City Muslims cheering the collapse of the Twin Towers—is widely thought to be a test of other Republican candidates. It is more than that. With Trump still leading national polls—still?—it is becoming a test of the Madisonian thesis.
“Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them.”
Houston voters, being Texan and therefore retrograde, have defeated an ordinance that Mayor Annise Parker, being progressive and therefore enlightened, says should never have been up to them. “No one’s rights,” she explains, “should be subject to a popular vote.” The ordinance—in pursuit of which Parker tried to subpoena the sermons of opposing pastors—would have prohibited discrimination, which is to say distinctions, in a variety of areas, including public accommodations (bathrooms), for a variety of reasons, including gender identity.
Mark Blitz reads Harvey Mansfield as closely as Mansfield reads Edmund Burke. For this, and for his excellent Liberty Forum essay on Mansfield’s Statesmanship and Party Government, we are in Blitz’s debt. The book’s simultaneously ambivalent and appreciative reading of Burke endures 50 years after its publication, and will rank among the definitive texts on the Anglo-Irish statesman well past half a century hence. Mansfield pays Burke the compliment of a meticulous reading that encompasses several works and whose precision reveals multiple insights. He breaks wholly new ground in Burke exegesis that, even after a half century, still feels innovative: Burke…
In response to: Respectable Partisans of Modern Liberty
Parties have long been respectable features of modern liberal democracy. But that is not to say that in America our current political parties are respected. The summer of Donald Trump, which may finally be fading, suggests a craving for leadership and boldness that is larger than partisan affiliation: Americans increasingly doubt that either party is…
Edmund Burke’s defense of political parties is also a defense of conservatism. It remains true that the “respectability of party”—Harvey C. Mansfield’s perfect phrase from Statesmanship and Party Government: A Study of Burke and Bolingbroke—continues to depend on the respectability of conservatism. Professor Blitz suggests this also, asking in his Liberty Forum essay what we can…
The three replies to my essay are thoughtful discussions of important issues, and I thank the respondents for writing them. Professor Weiner correctly suggests that to rely on great men is a mistake. A polity will not endure if it allows significant decline and constantly requires for its salvation an excellence that is always rare. It…
What Common Core has done for elementary and secondary education, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wants to do for higher education: eliminate variety, locality and, with them, quality.
Such would be the result of Sanders’ plan—which he touted at last night’s debate—to finance free higher education at all public colleges and universities. The financing is a pipe dream. The new federal funding, for example, could not be used for administrators’ salaries. It’s a classic instance of government-by-press-release—or by socialist—according to which we pretend that disincentives to behavior amount to prohibitions on behavior rather than inducements to creativity in its pursuit.
Conventional wisdom holds that the Speakership of the House is an impossible job because the Republican caucus is ungovernable. On this narrative, compromise is profane, and conservative purists outflank any constructive proposal leadership makes, thus rendering it toxic to the opposition. The purists are the proverbial bidders in Burke’s “auction of popularity”: “If any [leader] should happen to propose a scheme of liberty, soberly limited, and defined with proper qualifications, he will be immediately outbid by his competitors, who will produce something more splendidly popular.”
Alas: What’s a speaker to do?
The 2016 presidential contest will put the lie, but probably not the kibosh, to the case for campaign finance regulation. The contest’s results thus far—which, granted, is not very far—indicate what common sense says: money cannot protect candidates for whom citizens do not want to vote, nor are excessive sums necessary for those to whom the electorate is drawn.