James W. Ceaser Articles


What Next for the Left?

The progressives go from bad to worse
Feb 08, 2016

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 the

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The I Factor

Presidents and the first-person pronoun: a historical survey.
Feb 16, 2015

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.

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Freedom, Virtue, and Walter Berns

The constitutionalist par excellence.
Jan 26, 2015

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. 

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The Flight from Reason on Campus

And the madness of crowds.
Dec 22, 2014

The university is often said to be the first place in our society to look for the truth. Unfortunately, it is now one of the last places to find it.

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Kingdom Come

The irresistible rise of the imperial presidency
Jul 28, 2014

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.

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The Great Disappointment of 2013

What happens when a political messiah fails?
Mar 03, 2014

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.

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Reading Tocqueville in Beijing

The old regime fears a revolution.
Nov 19, 2012

Does Alexis de Tocqueville have anything to say to the current generation of Chinese leaders?

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The Day After

Four scenarios for the next four years
Nov 05, 2012

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.

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An Unspinnable Debate

How Romney won a clear victory in Denver.
Oct 15, 2012

The Businessman vs. the Professor

The personal dimension of the Romney-Obama face off.
Apr 30, 2012

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?

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One World

Are we ready for rule by ‘the party of global governance’?
Jan 23, 2012

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.

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The Gift of Gab

With Mitt Romney as its candidate, could the GOP find that its long national nightmare of verbal inadequacy is over?
Oct 31, 2011

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.

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Another Voting Paradox

Political scientists and democracy.
Sep 19, 2011

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.”

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The Great Persuader

The wisdom and wit of Irving Kristol.
Feb 14, 2011