New Phrases for the Ann Coulter Talking Doll?
posted by Alfred Brophy
Check out the link and you can hear sample phrases. My favorite is the one about liberals hating American more than terrorists. God bless politics.
Perhaps a phrase that could be added to the next edition of the doll is this one, which Dave Hoffman includes in his discussion of Coulter’s attack on Harriet Miers: “[A]ll the intellectual firepower in the law is coming from conservatives right now.”
All of this leads me to some serious questions (which modify Ms. Coulter’s statement): are conservative legal academics the ones producing the most influential or the most interesting scholarship these days? There was a time (in the nineteenth century) when the legal treatises were almost all written by conservatives (James Kent’s Commentaries; Joseph Story’s Commentaries; Timothy Walker’s Introduction to American Law). I can only think of one important antebellum legal treatise writer who was a Democrat: Henry Sedgwick. And his treatise on constitutional law was a success because he did not let his Democratic politics interfere with reporting on the law as it was.
That’s not to say that the outsiders didn’t have important things to say about law–and a critical influence on public respect for law. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and her now-obscure Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, Henry David Thoreau’s Slavery in Massachusetts, and Resistance to Civil Government, and Melville’s Billy Budd to name only several of the most obvious examples, all had important things to say about law. In some pretty cool ways, Stowe engaged in debate with lawyers and judges.
It seems as though the literature that critiques the present system is often on the left of the political spectrum. That supporting it is on the right. This is not surprising. As Emerson said in his much-overlooked lecture on “The Conservative,” the reformers are able to indict the present system easily. The defenders of the present system have in some ways a hard time. Though defenders of the present system also have the benefit of a known and well-tried system. In a lot of ways it’s easier for them to defend what is known and what is (mostly) working.
It’s hard to have compelling fictional literature that says, “hey, the present system’s awesome!” That’s one reason why proslavery fiction of the 1850s was so uniformly lousy. But isn’t it also hard to have legal literature that critiques the present system and replaces it with another, better system? I wonder if part of the problem with left-leaning scholarship is that while it’s possible to critique, it’s extremely hard to articulate a complete vision of what a reconstructed legal system ought to look like.
And perhaps those supporting the system (or offering minor modifications of it) are better able to produce scholarship that influences or engages the system, rather than those who offer wholesale critiques.