What does it mean to be a Constitutional Republic? Join host Adam White, producer Tal Fortgang, and guests as they examine the roles of Congress, the president, the courts, and many other American institutions in keeping a republic.
Unprecedential goes on summer break: Adam and Elayne look back, and look ahead
After fifteen months and 46 episodes, Unprecedential is packing up and going to the beach. Today’s episode features Adam and Elayne reflecting on their favorite conversations thus far. They also draw out some general lessons about constitutional governance from the wide-ranging insights brought by guests.
In the meantime, watch out for bonus episodes this summer and, later on, a revamped show with a new format. Stay tuned!
Is America's criminal justice system truly just? Judge Jed Rakoff argues for reform
The Bill of Rights provides a great number of protections for accused and convicted criminals: it promises trial by jury; it prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment. And in this system, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Yet few criminal indictments today are actually decided by a full trial; instead, prosecutors have many points of leverage, and defendants have strong incentives to plead guilty. Are these tools and incentives good for constitutional government?
Judge Jed Rakoff, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, recently published a book arguing for major reforms: “https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374289997 (Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free: And Other Paradoxes of Our Broken Legal System).” On April 29, 2021, he participated in a https://www.aei.org/events/why-the-innocent-plead-guilty-and-the-guilty-go-free-a-book-event-with-judge-jed-s-rakoff/ (public web event) with https://www.aei.org/profile/adam-j-white/ (Adam), to discuss the limits of forensic science, prosecutors’ advantages over defense during trials, and other ways the criminal justice system is falling short. The recording of their conversation is today's podcast episode.
Fears of a setting sun: Dennis C. Rasmussen on the worries of Washington, Hamilton, Adams, and Jefferson
From today’s vantage point, the Founding era often seems a time churning with decisive hopefulness. The 1789 Constitutional Convention certainly featured vehement debate, as Gary Schmitt and Joseph Bessette noted in our https://www.aei.org/podcast/neither-monarch-nor-magistrate-joseph-m-bessette-and-gary-j-schmitt-on-crafting-a-republican-executive/ (last episode). But optimism appeared to prevail: on the last day of the Convention, Benjamin Franklin concluded that a rising, rather than a setting, sun was the apt metaphor for the fledgling nation.
Yet many of our most revered Founders –Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton – expressed deep concern for the new nation’s prospects for success. The framers’ worries, often overlooked in scholarship, is the subject of Syracuse University Political Science Professor https://www.maxwell.syr.edu/psc/Rasmussen,_Dennis/ (Dennis Rasmussen)’s new book, https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691210230/fears-of-a-setting-sun (Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders.) Listen as https://www.aei.org/profile/adam-j-white/ (Adam) and Dennis discuss the Founders’ fears – and one framer whose measured confidence was notable exception.
Neither monarch nor magistrate: Joseph M. Bessette and Gary J. Schmitt on crafting a republican executive
When the Constitutional Convention began in 1787, delegates were tasked with creating a government that could simultaneously avoid monarchy’s overreaches and the Articles of Confederation’s ineffectiveness. In other words, the Convention needed to craft a republican executive. The Convention’s arguments over presidential selection, structure, and scope captured both the danger and fragility of executive power – twin concerns still evident in today’s debates about the presidency.
Claremont McKenna College professor of Government https://www.cmc.edu/academic/faculty/profile/joseph-bessette (Joseph Bessette) and frequent guest and AEI scholar https://www.aei.org/profile/gary-j-schmitt/ (Gary Schmitt) join https://www.aei.org/profile/adam-j-white/ (Adam) on https://www.aei.org/tag/unprecedential-podcast/ (Unprecedential) to discuss their recent AEI report, “https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Crafting-a-republican-executive.pdf?x91208 (Crafting a Republican Executive: The Presidency and the Constitutional Convention).”
Defining women’s rights: Erika Bachiochi on the constitutional debate over women’s equality
Since the 19th Amendment ratified women’s right to vote in 1920, the quest for women’s equality in America has taken many turns. But the philosophical lineage behind the legal and cultural debates about women’s rights remains visible in today’s disagreements. Intellectual descendants of John Stuart Mill argue that reproductive autonomy best achieves economic equality for women. Heirs of Mary Wollstonecraft’s thought, on the other hand, emphasize the need for laws that require employers to respect men’s and women’s family obligations.
Erika Bachiochi, fellow at the https://eppc.org/author/erika_bachiochi/ (Ethics and Public Policy Center), senior fellow at the https://www.abigailadamsinstitute.org/senior-fellows-1 (Abigail Adams Institute), and author of the forthcoming book https://undpress.nd.edu/9780268200824/the-rights-of-women/ (The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision), joins Adam to trace and evaluate the evolving debate over the political, legal, and cultural meaning of women’s equality.
The politics of religious freedom: Helen Alvaré on worship in a secular age
Both historically and constitutionally, the freedom to worship has been a centerpiece of American politics. For much of their history, Americans viewed religious devotion as a linchpin of human experience and deserving of legal protection. But traditional religion has become increasingly suspect in the current cultural landscape, which prizes autonomy and freedom. For those with secular beliefs, faith can seem like a veil for discrimination and intolerance.
To discuss the political dynamics of religion, George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School professor https://www.law.gmu.edu/faculty/directory/fulltime/alvare_helen (Helen Alvaré) joins https://twitter.com/adamjwhitedc (Adam) on Unprecedential. Adam and Professor Alvaré, who has written and edited three books on topics related law and religion, consider religion’s place in government, in politics, and in education.
An excellent listen—I feel smarter every time I finish an episode.
A lot of good information on the pod!
One of the best
One of the best pods in politics. Yes, Jackson thought he was a tyrant but he wasn’t exactly Wilson. Pls explain why you bleep his name on the next pod!