Tag Archives: First Amendment

Political Conduct and the First Amendment

Now that I have finished a draft of a new Article, Political Conduct and the First Amendment, I am eager to join the conversation on the ELB. I couldn’t be more thankful to Rick for including me as part of the team. I am a devout reader of the blog and look forward to broadening the ongoing discussion in the election law community about how to improve both democratic governance and faith in democratic institutions.

In the meanwhile, like many of us, I have been wrestling with how to make sense of the Roberts Court’s indifference to voters and democracy. Political Conduct and the First Amendment is my take on the bigger picture:

Preview: The First Amendment’s primary constitutional role is to defend our nation’s commitment to the collective project of self-governance. Its provisions protect both speech and political conduct toward the end of securing vital channels for influencing public policymaking, demanding responsiveness, and ensuring accountability. Over time, however, the Supreme Court and scholars alike have gravitated to the speech clause, driven by the misconception that democracy is a product of political discussion, rather than political participation. The Court has thus reduced a multifaceted amendment protecting the political process writ large into a singular protection for free expression. The Article explains not only why this is a mistake, but how it negatively impacts our democracy. It proceeds to offer a more nuanced account of the First Amendment’s relationship to self-governance—one that vindicates a construction of the amendment that actually protects democracy in all its facets. The three main pillars of this new account are: protection for political conduct; recognition of a strong anti-entrenchment norm; and a better appreciation of the significance of drawing a distinction between the domain of governance and the domain of politics in First Amendment jurisprudence.

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Justice Kennedy Channels John Hart Ely: Windsor’s Effort to Clear the Channels of Political Change

For the last few days, I’ve been blogging about a new paper of mine on Windsor v. United States over on Balkinization (here, here, and here). I offer a new spin on it, one that invokes Ely’s Democracy and Distrust and depicts Windsor as an effort to “clear the channels of political change.” You might find the posts interesting if you want to read more about what I call the “interlocking gears or rights and structure,” which help explain the many mysteries in the opinion, the democratic purposes federalism serves, and the ways in which Windsor can be understood as an Ely-like move. Or just think of this as an invitation to join those of us writing at the intersection of federalism and election law, including Jessica Bulman-Pozen and Franita Tolson. Come on in — the water’s warm…

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