The Blawgosphere Turns a Page (Finally!)
I’ve been consuming lots of analysis of Tuesday’s happenings. Thousands (tens of thousands) of words on implications of the election for the parties, the economy, corporate law; some amazing journalism (reminding you of the value of professional reporters) peeking behind the scenes of the campaign; and a bit about the Emanuel brothers. (Imagine the strength of the mother that handled that trio.)
The brilliance of the political blogosphere throws a harsh and unflattering light on the law professor blogosphere. I don’t mean to harp, but it is striking to me that almost all political commentary you’ve seen on law professor blogs this last 6 or 12 or 18 months has been ill-informed, or vapid, contentless, and much, much too meta. (Yes, I get the irony. Indulge me.)
I originally wrote a long post trying to make sense of why law professors, who aren’t stupid, have time on their hands, and are selected professionally for their ability to write, have done such a bad job adding value as political commentators. But then I recalled that silence is often the best thing to say.* Still, I’ve spent too much time not to boil down my conclusions, with the personal stuff left out:  innumeracy leading to fetishizing statistical significance;  a failure to adopt Web 2.0 technologies;  silo-ing expertise;**  not enough conservative law professors bloggers to argue with and learn from;*** and, most importantly,  bloggers drawing the wrong lesson from their students’ willingness to write down every word they say.
I’ll expand a bit on . Not everything a professor says is interesting. When 40, 60, 100, or more students laugh at your jokes, I guess it becomes easy to forget. Generally, people add value by writing and talking about things they know something about. Thus, I agree with Leiter that Bill Henderson is one of the country’s best law professor bloggers. Most law professors have no personal experience with the innards of a modern political campaign (serving as an consultant on a committee about a substantive legal issue isn’t the same at all). We aren’t well positioned to know what commercial will appeal to lower-middle-class voters, or what song will inspire youth turnout. But we’ve blogged about it anyway.
In any event, as I’ve made clear in the past, I been pretty disappointed by the blawgosphere’s last six months. I hope that it’s behind us, and smell change is in the air. (The scent mixes the gravity of pounded sand and a freshness of a mountain glade.)
So . . . what’s next?
*** An example: Rick Hasen is tremendous, and it is great he’s on HuffPo, but it isolates him a bit from conservative law professors who believe that the right F/V ratio is <1. Those professors, in my view, are operating under a normatively undesirable assumption that lower, "better-informed" turnout is superior to higher turnout. They've mistakenly discounted the social utility of perceived legitimacy in ill-served subpopulations.
*** Notable exceptions include Kerr, Bainbridge, Volokh, and Garnett. I want to single out Orin for a second here in particular because Greenwald has libeled him. Orin has ably defended himself on the merits. And maybe Greenwald hasn’t really been reading Orin all that carefully, because I don’t see how you could conclude that OK is anything other than lucid, open-minded, and very pragmatic. Greenwald, by contrast, seems to be interested in maximizing his audience by slashing at people who disagree with him on the merits of a hard policy question. I guess it’s a living.