Re-establishing federalism starts with divorcing national politics from elections

If one believes that many of the shortcomings of today’s politics can ultimately be traced to the abandonment of federalist principles—as tends to typify certain strains of right-wing thought—then the trend in national elections, which primarily subjects candidates running for federal office to scrutiny by other elected officials rather than to the judgment of their constituents, should be an alarming one. It is perhaps telling that while many descry the influence of outside actors, particularly…

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Presidential Deal-Brokering Threatens Rule of Law

The president has no legislative power. This is confirmed not only by the lack of language in Article II of the Constitution granting the president authority to issue laws, even in times when they may be exigently needed, but also in the rather explicit clause of Article I, Section 1, which states that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and…

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American Party Culture, Part 5: The Pressure to Conform

The quest for an efficacious politics is a coming-of-age tale of sorts. There is an inevitable moment of reckoning in the life of each and every member of the polity, a moment when the veil of winsome ignorance is lifted and the mind is awoken to the realities of civic life. In this moment, each citizen must grapple with their political identity and determine whether it is more personally efficacious to allow their opinions to…

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The Politics of Doom: Rhetorical Bluster or Electorally Transformative?

Contemporary politics is less a formal party system, organized around substantively different sets of beliefs, and more an emergent schism between doomsday prophets who can agree that America is in decline and freedom is fast slipping away, but lay the blame for impending cataclysm at the feet of their rivals. Political identity is subsumed by end-time beliefs; the operative variable is whether one believes the president or his detractors are the agents responsible. The prophets…

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America’s Party Culture, Part 1: An Exclusive Club

An efficacious politics requires some degree of exclusivity, even in a democratic society. A functional government is built on choice; politicians must sort through vast troves of information, not all of it reliable, in order to identify and pursue the one course of action most likely to lead to a desired outcome. But it is not enough to lobby for the passage of a specific policy on the grounds that it benefits a certain constituency;…

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The Hollowing Out of the Conservative Mind

The 2016 election was something of an existential crisis for many across the partisan spectrum, but perhaps not quite as literally for any group as conservatives. Donald Trump’s ascendancy ripped the veil off right-wing ideology and revealed that many of the principles to which conservatives had clung so staunchly in their political advocacy—limited government, free markets—were apparently adopted by many of their brethren simply because they stood in opposition to progressive ideas. Those who balked…

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When Governing Becomes An Aesthetic Act

Often these days it seems legislators put more effort into the naming of bills than into analyzing the details of new laws and their likely impact upon the citizenry. In April, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act, or “El Chapo” Act, proposing to channel the assets seized from drug trafficking towards border security and funding for the proposed border wall. There is a certain insipid…

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