Greg Weiner

Greg Weiner is a contributing editor of Law and Liberty.

Six Degrees of Jim Buchanan

It is a dicey business for scholars housed at academic institutions to embark on projects to influence public opinion and practical politics. That is one of the relentless premises of Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, a scurrilous attack on James M. Buchanan that is written as a screed, published with a popular press, and suffused on every page with an obvious intent to influence public opinion and practical politics.

MacLean, the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, might better have entitled the work, which is pervaded with innuendo and guilt by association, Six Degrees of Jim Buchanan. His constitutional focus on veto points is similar to John C. Calhoun’s; Buchanan is therefore tarred by association with Calhoun’s racial views. Buchanan came to prominence in Virginia when the state was under the thumb of the segregationist U.S. Senator Harry Byrd. Byrd’s beliefs on voter suppression are unfurled in tandem with Buchanan’s story, inviting the reader to infer a phantom link between them. Likewise the implied association of Buchanan with the full range of the Virginia journalist James J. Kilpatrick’s views.

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Return to Marbury


The travel ban case is headed to the Supreme Court by way of the once redoubtable Fourth and always activist Ninth Circuits, leaving revisionists to wonder how it might have unfolded had it made its way upward through Judge William H. Pryor’s Eleventh. Pryor’s view of the judicial role exhibits appropriate assertiveness within its sphere and a fitting humility beyond it.

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Vindicating Publius

A recent Washington Post analysis accuses President Trump of acting like a “king” speaking to “peasants” as he wages “war” on constitutional checks on his power.

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Bringing an End to Weak Sister Constitutionalism

man showing fist to his big boss

The particular genius of Marbury v. Madison was John Marshall’s act of jujitsu. President Jefferson wanted William Marbury kept off the federal bench and let it be known he would defy any Supreme Court order to the contrary, so Marshall delivered that outcome while seizing the larger prize of judicial review. Two centuries on, President Jefferson’s successor Donald Trump is reduced not to defying the Court but rather to tweeting ruefully that the judiciary’s consideration of his travel ban is “slow and political.”

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A Love-Hate Relationship with Publius

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For those wondering whether Sanford Levinson, the distinguished constitutional provocateur who has called the Founding document “undemocratic” and called for its radical reform, harbors hostility toward the political theory that established our nation, his book An Argument Open to All: Reading The Federalist in the 21st Century is his answer. It is not that he loved Publius less, but that he loved democracy more. An Argument Open to All, an essay-by-essay reply to The Federalist, is in many ways a love letter to Publius—the kind that a spouse in a marriage of lasting standing might write. It visits and revisits long-running arguments,…

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Burning Down His House

White House Entrance

No man enters the presidency prepared for the office, yet few chief magistrates have managed a stage entry as startlingly rife with incompetence and impropriety as Donald Trump. The reason is that the inherent, inertial conservatism of the office disciplines most of its occupants.

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Containing the Weapon of Mass Disruption

“[W]e expect he would work with Congress, as the Founders intended.” Scholars and Writers for America, Statement for Candidate Trump “We don’t have a lot of closers in politics and I understand why. It’s a very rough system. It’s an archaic system. You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House—but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through, it’s—it’s really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion. They’re archaic rules and maybe at some point we’re going to have to take those rules on because for the…

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This Is Your Brain on Scientism

The problem with convening a March for Prudence is that the prudent—being otherwise occupied and believing public views should be mediated through representation—would never attend. But after the unbounded rhetoric of the March for Science, one wonders if prudence dictates, on this one occasion, marching after all.

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Madison and the Liquid Constitution

Clear blue sky

The conversation Richard Reinsch has sparked on constitutional liquidation is less about constitutional meaning than about the ultimate—note “ultimate”—authority to ascertain it. It is true, as Randy Barnett, among others, notes, that liquidation is a longstanding topic in originalist thought. But Reinsch suggests a new avenue, writing that republican politics bien entendu is the ultimate (see above) expositor of constitutional meaning and that this is true generally, not just in ambiguous or indeterminate cases.

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The Original Nuclear Option

The basic idea of the “nuclear option” in the U.S. Senate is that supermajority rules exist at the sufferance of simple majorities. Last week’s decision to use a simple majority to eliminate the Senate filibuster for Supreme Court nominees was thus not the original nuclear option. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was.

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