Trump and the Conservative/Libertarian Legal Movement

Spirited disagreement at a recent panel hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of the Federalist Society.

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I recently served as a panelist at a debate hosted by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Federalist Society on the conservative and libertarian legal movement during the Trump Administration.  Was the Trump era the best of times, the worst of times, or some mixture of the two?  There was significant disagreement among us, so hopefully it's worth watching no matter which way you come out on the question.

The event was moderated by Jeremy Rosen, and my fellow panelists were Gregg Nunziata, Manny Klausner, and Samuel Ramer.

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  1. One can easily imagine a more strategic leader for the conservative movement than trump. Although the right’s issues are far beyond questions of his guidance and more to do that they play checkers while the left plays chess.

    Mainstream libertarians were and still are a joke. Half of them don’t even seem to know what libertarianism is supposed to stand for anymore and are stuck in the ‘economically conservative, socially liberal’ mentality of the 80s because. well thats how its always been when they were young.

    1. These Ivy indoctrinated elitists do not understand why 72 million people voted for Trump. These elitist lawyers are deniers. No point arguing with them.

      1. “These Ivy indoctrinated elitists do not understand why 72 million people voted for Trump.”

        First, it’s at least 80 million if you include the ballots that were shredded, and second (unlike Biden’s voters) none were Civil War veterans.

        But no, the indoctrinated elitists simply do not understand why Trump won two elections (and will win a third should he run again).

        They don’t understand that MAGA is a movement stronger than the 1970’s (not 1960’s) counter-culture of their youth, that the changes that MAGA will bring over the next decade will be as significant as the counterculture’s changes were in the 1970s.

        And for an eye-opening comparison of just how much society changed, compare the pictures of the Secret Service agents at the 1981 Reagan shooting to the pictures of the Secret Service agents at the 1963 Kennedy shooting.

        1. First, it’s at least 80 million if you include the ballots that were shredded, and second (unlike Biden’s voters) none were Civil War veterans.

          We already know you’re a liar, Ed. Give it a break for five minutes, please?

          1. Those lies have become mainstream positions in the Republican Party.

            The birthers have regrouped, and intensified.

        2. Just as an aside compare how the SS agents are armed and trained compared to say 1981. As a hint google Hershel FN PS90.

        3. It took 40 years before people admitted that JFK stole the 1960 election from Nixon, the evidence was to overwhelming, and it was less than 2020. It will take about as long Ed, for the same reasons.

          1. Good thing you can see the truth already, then!

            And a lucky coincidence this truth you see aligns with what you wished happened.

        4. “… and second (unlike Biden’s voters) none were Civil War veterans.”

          Dead people voted for Donald Trump.

    2. If anything, Trump is socially conservative and economically liberal.

      But that is like trying to define Lincoln along the lines of Jefferson or Monroe, who also faced secession.

      1. I would tend to disagree. His person views on social/sexual matters (divorce, abortion, etc) seem at odds with the conventional understanding of “socially conservative” and his love of tariffs is anything but “economically liberal”. Yet other aspects of his policy would fit your description.

        Personally, I don’t think Trump can be shoehorned into any one characterization. His policies and practices just don’t fit on the “left-right” spectrum. Mind you, few of us really fit on that spectrum either. It’s at best a very crude, one-dimensional view of an incredibly complex, non-linear preference surface. I wish we could grow past that simplistically linear view.

        1. “I wish we could grow past that simplistically linear view.”

          Me too. But, it’s probably an inevitable result of the complete inversion of our founding principles — going from decentralized, local self-government, to all-powerful centralized imperialist government.

    3. It’s clear that you can no longer separate “economics” from “culture.” If you support low taxes while supporting the “right” of a man to bugger another man in the arse, eventually, you’ll lose on the former.

      1. So, please explain how that is so. If a person has no right to own their own body and mind, how can they possibly have a right to own their paycheck or bank account?

    4. Absolutely. But “libertarians” chose to and further anti-liberty policies because they hated MEAN TWEETS.

      Trump showed the libertarian movement for what it was – a joke.

      (And that comes from a libertarian who reluctantly supported Trump because I’m not an idiot).

      1. Objection; assumes facts not in evidence.

        1. “because I’m not an idiot”

  2. While normal people see Law as a set of rules to maintain an orderly society, Trump, instead, sees Law as either a tool to get his way or something to be completely ignored if it hinders him.

    And Trump doesn’t fall under the conservative and libertarian legal movement – or any movement.

    There’s only Trump in Trump’s world.

    1. I will enjoy the great suffering of the disloyal Dem voter under Biden. Billionaires will thrive.

      1. Oh how the billionaires suffered under Trump.

        1. Biden has promised to end the SALT cap… though, admittedly, that probably hits lower-upper class (working bankers/lawyers/doctors) more than the upper-upper class (billionaires).

    2. While normal people see Law as a set of rules to maintain an orderly society, Liberals, instead, sees Law as either a tool to get their way or something to be completely ignored if it hinders them.

      FIFY

      1. While traditionalists see Law as a means of maintaining the status quo, revolutionaries see Law as either a tool to advance their cause or something to be ignored, depending on the circumstances.

        Law is, after all, really nothing more than precedent.

    3. For a person who comments on a constitutional law blog, your comments are shallow, idiotic and emotional. How is anything you typed in this comment even close to reality?

      1. Well since I’m (trying) to channel John Locke, I guess you have a problem with him, not me.

        1. John Locke supported the American Revolution — which was clearly “illegal”…

          1. Priceless. Tell us more about what John Locke, who died 7 decades before the American Revolution, thought about it.

            1. He supported it spiritually, David.

    4. Why do you presume to know what’s in Trumps mind and heart, and spout demonstrably false assertions about his respect for the law? He spent a lot of time in court fighting for things, and didn’t once defy a court order; or perhaps you haven’t been paying attention.

  3. The Ivy indoctrinated agents of the billionaires forgot to mention the pretextual misuse of lawfare for political attack on the 2016 election. I would have cleared the DOJ, State, the FBI, Inauguration Day, fired 100% of these skunks. I would have arrested Pelosi. The lawyers think they know more than millions of real Americans. They are know nothing bookworms. Dismissed.

    1. And Lincoln had problems with his Generals, one of whom would run against him in 1864. Franklin Roosevelt had to purge his own party of opponents via the 1934 & 1936 elections before he could accomplish anything, and truly feared Huey Long.

      The problem is that — after Andrew Jackson’s purge — the system sought to protect itself from anyone else ever doing that again. Civil service rules prevent anyone from ever firing the people who need to be fired.

  4. Trump needs to be seen in the light of Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt — men who created a new political party, either by taking over an existing one (FDR) or by creating a new one.

    All boldly ignored the law when it got in their way — “John Marshal has made his decision, now let’s see him enforce it”, Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeus corpus in Maryland, and “the switch in time that saved nine.”

    All were seen by their opponents as being vulgar, uncouth, immoral, and mentally ill. All were truly hated by a significant portion of the populace — my grandmother had a portrait of FDR in the outhouse, framed with an old toilet seat.

    And all four caused a massive re-alignment of the American political system. FDR is the one easiest to document and I’ve seen research indicating that entire (small) towns along the Maine coast went from voting nearly 100% Dem in the 20s to voting 100% Republican in the 1930s.

    Trump was (and is — he hasn’t disappeared yet) outside the box. Outside of all boxes, and manged to knock them all over. And hence the realignment will continue even in his absence — yet I don’t think he is gone yet. Last I heard, he is building his own Twitter, to be opened soon — and the challenge of doing this is that he has to open full bore, not build it incrementally the way Twitter was built.

    1. I’m kind of missing where Trump boldly ignored the law when it got in his way. If anything, he was notorious for pissing and moaning about adverse rulings, and then complying with them anyway.

      1. Exactly. He played the DC game, and in the end was played by it.

  5. >he has to open full bore, not build it incrementally the way Twitter was built.

    Maybe. I could see the actual implementation being a Fediverse hub (maybe Mastodon specifically), which would let them leverage an existing network.

  6. I’m looking forward to watching when I have time, and I’m hoping there is some attempt to define exactly what is meant by the “Conservative/Libertarian Legal Movement.” If they basically mean FedSoc itself, it’s hard to believe they would have much room for complaint.

  7. Best of Times? Well of course one reason the GOP and McConnell protected Trump so audaciously was because he would sign off on any judge they they threw at him. No matter how unqualified.

    Worst of Times? Don’t see it. Not if you are a Federalist type. If you are concerned about corruption and the makeover that turned the DoJ into Trump’s personal taxpayer-funded law firm yes then there would be something to be concerned about. But those concerns are pretty easy to sweep under the rug once you secure those lifetime appointments.

    One last thought. In the aftermath of the 2020 election and the Big Lie on which so much Republican motivation depends, it is astonishing how poor the track record Trump-aligned litigators have in front of Trump appointed judges. Even poor weepy Devin Nunes got pretty thoroughly trashed — again — by a Trump appointed judge just last week.

    1. One last thought. In the aftermath of the 2020 election and the Big Lie on which so much Republican motivation depends, it is astonishing how poor the track record Trump-aligned litigators have in front of Trump appointed judges. Even poor weepy Devin Nunes got pretty thoroughly trashed — again — by a Trump appointed judge just last week.

      Why is that astonishing? Any competent, honest judge would have ruled the same way in those cases. Did you really buy into the partisan rhetoric that judges are automatically incompetent and dishonest if they’re conservative?

      1. No I didn’t buy into that. I never asserted that a Trump appointed judge was inherently dishonest.

        What I found astonishing is that the GOP found so many lawyers who were so incompetent or corrupt or delusional that they would file lawsuits that had utterly no chance of winning or even proceeding past the first stages. The only “win” out of more than 60 actions was over something so eyeball-rollingly trivial it is embarrasing.

        I have dealt with many lawyers over my life and I can’t think of a single one of them who, if I had proposed a Big Lie action like the ones we have seen wouldn’t have leaned back in their swivel chair and said something like “yeah, well that’s great and all but you just don’t have a case. Forget about it and do something else with your time and money. I’m not interested.”

        What I honestly believe (and I have no proof I admit) is that some of those lawyers and their clients actually believed what you thought I did. That those Trump-appointed judges would have ruled in their favor no matter what papers they filed. Unless they were just in it for the fees there is little other explanation.

        1. Oh, then I misunderstood your point. Sorry about that. It’s hard to be sure around here sometimes.

          But there are lots of reasons why lawyers took on the post-election litigation on behalf of Trump. Some lawyers will take any case if the check clears. Some were clearly grifters trying to use the litigation to raise money for themselves. Some were just incompetent. (Okay, all of them were incompetent.) I’m not sure that any really believed that “Trump judges” would rule in their favor. (Members of the general public and Trump himself might have believed that. But I find it hard to believe an actual lawyer did.)

  8. There is a theory that if Hitler had never been born someone like him would have arose in Germany. I suspect the same could have been said of Trump. The last two pub candidates for prez were so wishy washy and basically dem’s light they offered little choice. One of my pet peeves is how peeps like Illya and the dems keep pushing open borders when there is clearly a massive number of peeps against more immigration.

    There are probably dozens of other issues with a similar split that is basically 50/50. I keep hearing it is really 51+/48+ and have to wonder if the dems saying it really think that makes it a clear cut win. One of the first things I learned in the military in Leadership Preparation Class was ‘never give an order you know will not be obeyed’. This is the problem with a 50/50 split.

    1. ragebot : “The last two pub candidates for prez were so wishy washy and basically dem’s light they offered little choice”

      It’s a shame. You started off so promising and then plunged off the cliff into right-wing drivel.

      Yes, a trump-ish figure was inevitable – you can start by looking at the Democrats, who had their similar figure in Sanders (even if their version wasn’t a psychotic-liar huckster buffoon). But it goes well beyond that : the entire world is currently full of various forms of trumps. There are trumps in India & Turkey dismantling pluralistic societies. There are trumps in Hungry & Poland undermining democratic standards. There are trumps in France & Germany trying to bring back the good old days of fascism.

      And every one of these trumps has an Other to sell to the mob as their enemy – the Muslim minority in India, Jew-baiting in Hungry, the Turks in Germany. Of course the granddaddy trump-of-them-all, Putin, has many shadowy enemies he sells to the rubes.

      The only distinction between our trump & theirs is the U.S. version was more clownish, incompetent, and ignorant than the rest. As for the cause, I think that’s pretty clear. We had world-wide economic upheaval in 1929 and, within a decade, right-wing populist demagogues appeared around the globe. We had worldwide upheaval in 2010 and, within a decade, right-wing populist demagogues show up everywhere. We should be thankful our manifestation of this phenomena was such a rancid joke.

      1. ‘even if their version wasn’t a psychotic-liar huckster buffoon’

        You take those out you’re not left with much that is Trumpish.

    2. The last two pub candidates for prez were so wishy washy and basically dem’s light they offered little choice.

      This is certifiably insane.

      One of my pet peeves is how peeps like Illya and the dems keep pushing open borders when there is clearly a massive number of peeps against more immigration.

      Let’s set aside whether you’ve accurately characterized their positions. I still don’t understand your point. One of your pet peeves is that some people push policies you disagree with?

      1. “In Presidential primaries, however, RINOs are often heavily favored. In 2008 and 2012, RINOs John McCain and Mitt Romney were nominated, respectively and RINOs such as Chris Christie were considered for 2016. ”

        https://www.conservapedia.com/RINO

        1. It’s been ages since I dived down into the deep madness of Conservapedia! A five minute visit provides this on 06Jan :

          “During the January 6, 2021 Joint Session of Congress to certify the Electoral College ballots, while tens of thousands peaceful protesters rallied in support of President Trump outside the capitol, chartered vans of Antifa were escorted by state police in black, unmarked SUVs into the midst of the crowd. Capitol Police then removed barriers and waved the crowd in to the Capitol steps. Antifa rioters proceeded to break windows on the U.S. Capitol building and storm the premises”

          Exact quote. It goes on to say a Trump supporter wandered in behind all those leftists and was “summarily executed by Capitol Police.” And how does it end per Conservapedia?

          “At the close of the day’s events and Joint Session, the House Chaplain offered a prayer to “bless Antifa”.

          (The entry on QAnon is also a hoot)

  9. “”The last two pub candidates for prez were so wishy washy and basically dem’s light they offered little choice.”

    This is certifiably insane.”

    Insane? This is pot on! McCain – RINO, certainly dem light. And Romney?

    “Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah is receiving the Profile in Courage Award for being the only Republican to vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial in 2020.

    With that decision, Romney became the first senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president in his same party, earning him the award created by the family of former President John F. Kennedy.”

    Certainly a RINO, dem-light.

    What are you thinking, David? These guys are KNOWN widely as RINOs.

    1. No. A handful of loons on the far right claim that. No sane person thinks that. Not supporting Donald Trump does not mean that one isn’t a Republican; it means one is a principled Republican. Trump, who repudiated pretty much everything the party stands for (to the point where in 2020 they didn’t even bother to put forth a campaign platform), has a far better claim to the title of RINO than Mitt Romney does.

      1. The time when that was true, David, was around five years ago. He is the Republican Party now, and they are him.

      2. A handful of loons on the far right claim that. No sane person thinks that

        When McCain campaigned on turfing Obamacare, and then killed the repeal vote just to crap on Trump, he showed everyone exactly what he really was.
        The same goes for Pierre Delecto.

        You’d have to be to the left of Pol Pot to think those self-serving Neocons were anything other than RINOs.

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