Presidential Strategies on Rights (LAW-983-001)
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Most constitutional law is made outside of the courts. Presidents are especially well placed to make constitutional law within their sphere of action, as well as to influence the development of rights in others’ spheres of influence. We will read works from political science, history, law, and sociology, with several objectives in mind. First, we will examine the opportunities available to modern presidents to advance or erode constitutional and statutory rights. Second, we will explore the social conditions—within bureaucracies and society as a whole—that must prevail for an administration to make the transformation of existing rights a priority. Third, assuming the perspective of an executive branch actor, we shall assess the tactics available when a president is committed to altering dominant conceptions of rights: when is each strategy most tempting, what are the historical or legal precedents for each tactic, how effective is it, and how we make such judgments. Students will be evaluated primarily based on two 7-10 page papers based on in-class readings (80% of grade). There will also be a discussion component (20%).
Textbooks and Other Materials
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1. Stephen Skowronek, The Politics That Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton (Belknap, 1997) ISBN: 9780674689374 2. Robert L. Tsai, Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture (Yale Univ. Press 2008) ISBN: 9780300117233 3. Steven Teles, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement (Princeton Univ. Press 2008) ISBN: 9780691122083 4. Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Double Day, 2008) ISBN: 9780385526395 5. Hugh Davis Graham, Civil Rights and the Presidency: Race and Gender in American Politics, 1960-1972 (Oxford University Press, 1992) ISBN: 978-0195073225
First Class Readings
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