All Politics, All the Time, Makes the Blawgosphere Go Crazy.

Ma_ma_wheres_my_pa.jpgI feel a need to take a moment for a short rant.

It’s the news-hook that launched a thousand nominally law-related blog posts: the presidential election season! Surfing the vast blawgosphere tonight, it feels like every other post, on every other blog written by, and often for, law professors, is about the federal presidential election process. This, despite the often-advanced (in quieter times) view that the Supreme Court (the motivating issue for many posts) has little substantive impact on the issues that most Americans care about, despite a recent emphasis by progressive scholars on direct democracy and regional and state-led legal reform, and (sadly) the truth that law professors only rarely have novel or interesting insights about Presidential politics. (Bill Stuntz is an exception to this and many other rules).

It is particularly dispiriting that the election season threatens to make unreadable some of my favorite blogs, which now seem to be given over almost entirely to hashing of the latest scandal, speech, purported policy shift, or inside-politics joke. (I’d link, but I like some of these folks when they aren’t dressing up as Bill Kristol or James Carville!) I’d like to say that we’re a total exception to the trend, but we’re clearly not – 10 of the 46 posts currently on our front page directly concern the conventions or the candidates (including a few by me!). Maybe this is a better ratio than average, and, if so, I’d like to think that it’s because we’ve got a good mix of political orientations in our core blogging group. But maybe it’s worse, in which case, I blame our sad quest for an Instalaunch the tremendous gravity exerted by the news cycle.

There is an argument, and I imagine some of you will expand upon it in the comments, that law professors are uniquely situated to provide context and content to political discussions because of our relative expertise in the institutions of government, its functioning, and the great issues of the political debate, like health care law, international environmental standards, the legal limits on the government in its interrogation and detention policies, etc. If indeed most law professor commentary about the election were of this character – say, Balkinization writ large – I’d agree with you. But mostly the exercise looks instead like a good illustration of Kahan’s cognitive illiberalism: lots of smart people perceiving, and pointing out, bias in others but failing to see bias in their own perceptions of facts, statistics, and politics. For heaven’s sake: elections happen every four years. The republic isn’t going to fall apart no matter who wins. If you need further reassurance, consider the double-hammer exerted by the hedonic treadmill and bad affective forecasting: it is almost certain that you are currently overestimating how much your guy losing will hurt you, and under-estimating how quickly you will adapt to the pain. If paraplegics can feel basically ok a few years out, so can you.

I’m as much a political junkie as the next ivory-tower elite, but I’d really like to read some smart, law-related, blogs that don’t feel it necessary to turn Obama’s latest terrific speech into a hook for a post about their experience with banning laptops in the classroom, or Palin’s recent Church attendance into a exposition about the constitutional law case they taught last term about crèches. Use this thread, if you like, to join my rant against the politicization of public life that happens around this time ever few years, and recommend some (other?) quiet space(s) to read and reflect about law while the blawgosphere ruminates about what clever turn of phrase, well-timed or produced ad, or terrific biography will fundamentally reshape the political universe.

End of rant: Whew! I’m glad I got that off my chest!

(Image Source: Anti-Grover Cleveland political cartoon of 1884, Wikicommons)

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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10 Responses

  1. Rilo says:

    I’ve removed the volokh boys from my rss feed until after the election. Blech.

  2. Chris says:

    Isn’t that Instalanche, not Instalaunch? That sounds like you’re just starting the blog.

  3. dave hoffman says:


    Really? I had no idea.


  4. mrshl says:

    Yeah, Volokh has become unreadable. And the comments are much worse than usual.

  5. Cleanthes says:

    “What particularly dispiriting is”

    I admire this rather Latinate verb placement. It sounds like something Yoda’s classics scholar uncle would say.

    Cartago delenda est.

    [DH: Good catch. Fixed that error. It is still an ugly sentence, but hope grammatically correct now I am.]

  6. Adam says:

    “If indeed most law professor commentary about the election were of this character – say, Balkinization writ large – I’d agree with you.”

    I’ve thought their (Balkinization’s) (anti-)Palin posts were among the more childish in the blawgosphere (though certainly not in the blogosphere at large).

  7. dave hoffman says:

    You get a mixed bag everywhere, but I particularly liked, and was thinking about, Mary Dudziak’s post here

  8. Pink Taffeta says:

    “The republic isn’t going to fall apart no matter who wins.”

    Hmmm…one more war in the middle east might do the trick.

    But overall, you’re right, leave the bloviating to the professional bloviators.

  9. Pink Taffeta writes:

    “”The republic isn’t going to fall apart no matter who wins.”

    “Hmmm…one more war in the middle east might do the trick.”

    Not all think Pakistan is “Middle East” but even so…this seems like just another cheap shot at Senator Obama.