“Assembly as Political Practice”

Columbia’s actions this past week, especially its decision to invite the NYPD onto campus, have prompted me to post a new chapter, “Assembly as Political Practice,” forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Peaceful Assembly (Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Michael Hamilton, Thomas Probert & Sharath Srinivasan, eds.). Recent events highlight the interrelationship between protest politics and electoral politics, the rise of a new McCarthyism focused on educational institutions, its power, but also the pervasive devaluing of it as a form of politics. Most disheartening to me personally is the widespread perceived reasonableness of Columbia’s actions including among First Amendment scholars. It stems, in my view, from a misconception of assembly as a lesser form of speech and an inclination to over estimate the risks of disorder.

“[A]ssemblies come in a range of . . . forms, including annual parades, smaller political protests, and weekly gatherings of social groups. All these forms of assembly sustain and reinforce the capacity for democratic politics, and their value does not turn on their expressive ends alone. Both the possibility of effective democratic politics, and a proper construction of the right of peaceful assembly, demand that we recognize the value of assembly, as assembly, and its latent and constitutive political functions.”

Share this:

“Supreme Court declines to decide if vote-by-mail restrictions discriminate in some states”

USA Today:

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to decide if states that automatically let senior citizens vote by mail must let younger voters do the same, an issue that could affect millions of voters…..

Seven states – Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee – allow older voters to request an absentee ballot for any reason but let others do so only under certain circumstances.  

The court on Monday rejected a challenge to these rules brought by three voters in Texas, just as it rejected a similar challenge in 2021 to Indiana’s voting rules. It also twice declined to hear earlier versions of the Texas suit brought by the Texas Democratic Party during the pandemic.

The challengers argued that the unequal treatment of voters is age-based discrimination prohibited by the 26th Amendment.

Share this:

“How R.F.K. Jr. Got on the Michigan Ballot, With Only Two Votes”

Interesting story from the N.Y Times on how RFK, Jr. became the nominee of the Natural Law Party, which has retained ballot access under Michigan law. In my judgment, it would be helpful if stories like these explained to readers that the problem with the current system is not ballot access for minor-party candidates but the lack of a runoff mechanism (or ranked choice voting) that would require candidates to receive a majority of the vote. Or, to put the point sometime differently, the media could explain the inconsistency between (1) the idea of having a “two-party system” and (2) laws that permit third-party and independent candidates ballot access. On this issue, it’s impossible to “have your cake and eat it too”–and yet that’s how American repeatedly attempts to conduct its elections, because because there has been no civics education to explain this to the citizenry.

Share this: