A strange period has now passed into history. Captivated by a presidential campaign in 2008, Americans by the millions came to believe that a new leader would be able to produce more than a transformed society and an era of world peace. Politics could be extended beyond its ordinary boundaries and bring about a spiritual renewal. This exhilarating prospect fed on its own spiraling expectations, surprising even its original purveyors.
Faith in this political religion eventually dissipated. Four years into the experience, many ceased to believe. Today most have forgotten. Politics has retreated to its more usual limits, focusing on the harder core of ideology.
Modern progressivism has driven much of American politics for theRead more
From almost the moment President Obama assumed office, observers began calling attention to his unusual proclivity to use the pronoun I. In one of the earliest notices of this practice, an alarmed Terence Jeffrey of CNS News counted 34 I’s in the president’s speech on the federal rescue of General Motors but, ominously, just one mention of “Congress” and none of “law.” Stories documenting Obama’s fondness for the personal pronoun have dotted newspapers and blogs ever since.Read more
Walter Berns, a leading figure in the study of constitutional law for nearly half a century, enjoyed an advantage over most other scholars in this field: He never attended law school. Unburdened by this professional training, Berns brought to his subject the fresh perspective of an outsider who had studied political philosophy at the University of Chicago, earning his doctorate in 1953. This theoretical background helped prepare Berns to see not only differently but further than his more legalistic colleagues.Read more
There are no copyrights on book titles. F. H. Buckley nevertheless shows remarkable audacity in borrowing The Once and Future King from T. H. White’s children’s classic, published in 1958. White enchanted his readers with a fantasy based on the Arthurian legend, replete with swords and sorcery, while Buckley has given us a sobering account of the transformation of the American presidency into an elective monarchy.Read more
Every student of American religious history has heard of the event known as “the Great Disappointment.” In 1818 William Miller, a former naval captain turned lay Baptist preacher, developed a new method for calculating biblical chronology to arrive at the conclusion that the millennium would take place sometime between 1842 and 1844. Finally published in 1832, Miller’s thesis quickly drew attention. A sect began to form, spreading from Miller’s home region in Eastern New York to New England and beyond. Millerism was born.Read more
For the small school of political analysis that draws its inspiration from the great French 17th-century philosopher René Descartes, the cardinal methodological rule is to begin from what one can know “so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt.” The only important fact about the election contest today that meets this stringent threshold is that someone named either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be declared president, most likely on November 7.Read more
With the Republican nomination now settled, electoral analysts are rolling out their models of voter behavior to predict the outcome of the general election. These “scientific” efforts at prophecy, which have become increasingly elaborate and arcane, boil down in the end to gauging voters’ evaluations of three simple questions for each candidate: What have you done? What will you do? and Who are you?Read more
Whatever else the grandiose project of “building Europe” may have accomplished—and at this point the entire edifice seems to be teetering—it has proven an enormous boon to social scientists and legal scholars.Read more
If, as most pundits now believe, Mitt Romney has the inside track for the Republican nomination, he is the first GOP candidate in more than a generation not to be syntactically challenged. Just look at the list of the party’s choices since Richard Nixon, whether elected (Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush) or defeated (Gerald Ford, Robert Dole, John McCain). Whatever other attributes these candidates possessed, facility in extemporaneous exchange was not one of them.Read more
While most Americans spend their Labor Day weekend savoring the last moments of summer vacation, political scientists are normally hard at work at their annual association meeting, held this year in Seattle. This event is usually a rather sedate affair, with scholars debating such recondite subjects as “Bayesian approaches to political research” and “The political-theological problem in Xenophon’s thought.”Read more
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