'Moderates' V. Madisonians: Some Excitable People Want You to Find the Federalist Society Frightening. Stay Calm

By Will, George F. | Newsweek, May 14, 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

'Moderates' V. Madisonians: Some Excitable People Want You to Find the Federalist Society Frightening. Stay Calm


Will, George F., Newsweek


During the Second World War the allies used "bomber streams," sending so many bombers so rapidly over a particular point on the ground--sometimes 40 or more per minute--that German air defenses were overwhelmed by the profusion of targets. Now comes, for a similar reason, President Bush's "judicial-nominee streams," as he begins trying to fill, in the teeth of flak from Senate Democrats, 101 vacancies on federal courts.

So it is time NEWSWEEK readers became acquainted with a tentacle of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy that may hitherto have escaped their notice, but that recently has been in the news and soon will be even more so. Actually, it is about as conspiratorial as a steam calliope: its members sometimes even wear identifying neckties, emblazoned with little silhouettes of James Madison. On a single day a few weeks ago the society was the subject of stories in The Washington Post ("Federalist Society Becomes a Force in Washington") and on The New York Times's front page ("A Conservative Legal Group Thrives in Bush's Washington"--how is that for a revelation?).

The society, which is indeed an important source of appointees for Bush's administration, has 25,000 members nationally and a well-staffed Washington office. The society sponsors a full calendar of conferences on legal topics, but unlike the liberal (on abortion, gun control, racial preferences, etc.) American Bar Association, does not take stands on policy questions. The society resulted from spontaneous combustion in the nation's law schools among students discontented with the prevailing liberal orthodoxies of professors like... well, consider Bruce Ackerman.

An excitable academic at Yale's law school, Ackerman will be a prominent voice in the chorus claiming to represent moderation against the "extremism" of Bush's nominees. To rally the forces of moderation, as he understands it, he may lobby Democratic senators, who may not be familiar with his flamboyant theorizing. A measure of his moderation is his argument that the Senate should refuse to confirm any Supreme Court nominees "until the American people return to the polls in 2004." Ackerman dislikes the outcome of the 2000 election, and of all the Florida recounts, and he especially dislikes the U.S. Supreme Court's role in preventing Florida's Supreme Court from making Al Gore president.

He approvingly cites the action of the Senate after Lincoln was assassinated, an event Ackerman considers analogous to Florida's voting against Gore. The Senate said that because John Wilkes Booth, not the voters, had made Andrew Johnson president, retiring justices should not be replaced, and they were not.

Given that Ackerman is not bashful about reading judges less radical than he is out of the jurisprudential "mainstream," consider Ackerman's moderation as expressed in his theory that the Constitution can be amended without reference to the two ways of amending stipulated in Article V (by two thirds of both houses of Congress and three quarters of the states, or by a constitutional convention).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

'Moderates' V. Madisonians: Some Excitable People Want You to Find the Federalist Society Frightening. Stay Calm
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?