While he does not write that much these days, Duncan Kennedy used to be a big deal. Kennedy was one of the leaders of Critical Legal Studies, the far leftist group of scholars who had a significant influence in the legal academy in the 1970s and 1980s. Interestingly, CLS seemed to lose tremenous influence after the fall of the Soviet Union, raising questions about their claim to favor a different type leftism than that country.
President Donald J. Trump benefitted from his lack of ideological moorings. Trump has never presented himself as a principled conservative. Had he been beholden to conservative shibboleths, he would have probably lost the election. Unfortunately, this also makes him an unpredictable President, and leaves the ultimate definition of “Trumpism” up for grabs. Other people will probably define the long-term ideological orientation of Trump’s right-wing populist movement. Few people are in a stronger position to do so than Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and current executive chairman of Breitbart News. For that reason, understanding Bannon’s political philosophy—if he ultimately has one—is…
Dudes and Pharisees. Mugwumps. Those were just some of the names that party regulars called the disaffected Republicans who refused to support James G. Blaine for President in 1884.
That contest, which pitted Blaine against Democrat Grover Cleveland, was one of the nastiest in American history. And it has much to teach us about Senator Jeff Flake’s indictment of American politics today.
My problems with What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s nearly 500-page self-proclaimed explanation for why she isn’t the 45th President of the United States as she fully expected to be, began around page 7. Clinton was describing how it felt to be sitting on the inaugural platform on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol when Republican Donald Trump, the man who actually won the election, was sworn in: “The day was unusually warm.”
The party in control of the presidency typically loses seats in the House and Senate in midterm elections. Since Jimmy Carter, the presidential party has on average lost just over 20 seats in the House and just under four seats in the Senate. An average election (which they never are) would see the Republicans hold onto the House by a narrow margin, and would see the Democrats take control of the Senate. But with 23 Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2018, plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats, and only eight Republicans, it looks to be a tough slog for Democrats to replicate historical averages, and pick up the Senate.
In antebellum America, the U.S. underwent what historians call “the market revolution.” This is a movement analogous to the “Great Transformation” Karl Polanyi sketched in England and Europe. (Interestingly, Polanyi himself excepts the American experience from the process he outlines given the availability of land for the taking in the U.S. relative to Europe.) The penetration of the market and market forces into the everyday lives of everyday people separates the period of the market revolution and afterward from the time before it. The rise of wage labor and production for markets, rather than production largely for one’s self and one’s family, created different rhythms and risks in life relative to agrarian life prior to the rise of that system.
Maryland’s state song made the front page of the Baltimore Sun yesterday. The marching band at the state university doesn’t want to play it at football games anymore.
The lyrics, set to the tune of “O Christmas Tree” by a secession-minded poet in 1861, begin: “The despot’s heel is on thy shore.” It’s a reference to the federal government. Marylanders are urged to use their “peerless chivalry” to rise up and defend the state: “She is not dead, nor deaf nor dumb. Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!”
This egregious song comes up for debate every so often. For years there’s been a bill in the legislature in Annapolis proposing that it be replaced. Amid moves all across the country to ditch public reminders of American slavery and/or the Confederacy, the on-again-off-again campaign against “Maryland, My Maryland” is on again.
President Trump’s inability or unwillingness to lead on a legislative agenda has been cast as bad news for conservatism. But his weakness may trigger a renaissance of conservatism properly understood.
If President Trump’s indefensible and equivocating response to Charlottesville demonstrates anything, it is something of which conservatives—and originalists in particular—should have needed no reminder: Words, the vessels of truth for those burdened with this mortal coil and of political life for those living in a constitutional republic, matter.