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Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy

Free Speech & Election Law Practice Group Teleforum Wednesday, May 27, 03:00 PMFederalist Society Teleforum Conference Call

“Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy” (available here as a free e-book) builds on political realism, an emerging school of thought that is characterized by respect for transactional politics and by skepticism toward idealistic political reforms. In our era of intense polarization and gridlock, Jonathan Rauch asks: How can political home truths – truths our grandparents took for granted – help modern politicians negotiate, compromise, and govern?

Mr. Rauch’s paper asserts that:

  • Government cannot govern unless political machines or something like them exist and work, because machines are uniquely willing and able to negotiate compromises and make them stick.
  • Progressive, populist, and libertarian reformers have joined forces to wage a decades-long war against machine politics by weakening political insiders’ control of money, nominations, negotiations, and other essential tools of political leadership.
  • Reforms’ fixations on corruption and participation, although perhaps appropriate a long time ago, have become destabilizing and counterproductive, contributing to the rise of privatized pseudo-machines that make governing more difficult and politics less accountable.
  • Although no one wants to or could bring back the likes of Tammany Hall, much can be done to restore a more sensible balance by removing impediments which reforms have placed in the way of transactional politics and machine-building.
  • Political realism, while coming in many flavors, is emerging as a coherent school of analysis and offers new directions for a reform conversation which has run aground on outdated and unrealistic assumptions.

Mr. Rauch also explores possible realist solutions, such changes to campaign finance laws, congressional earmarks, primary elections, and transparency rules.  Stephen Klein will join this program to offer his comments, and Mr. Rauch will answer questions from Federalist Society members.

  • Stephen R. Klein, Attorney, Pillar of Law Institute
  • Jonathan Rauch, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

Magna Carta at 800

Portland Lawyers Chapter Friday, May 29, 08:00 AMMark O. Hatfield Courthouse,
Jury Assembly Room
1000 SW 3rd Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

The Magna Carta, one of the founding documents of our constitutional system and of the modern concept of liberty, turns 800 this year. We have gathered an outstanding group of judges, attorneys, and scholars to commemorate the “Great Charter” with a diverse and exciting program.

Topics to be discussed include the Magna Carta and the American jury trial, the Magna Carta in popular culture, use of the Magna Carta in modern litigation, women and law in the age of the Magna Carta, and a look at 1215 and its aftermath in England. We’ll conclude the day with an open discussion and question session with our speakers.  View the full program, below.

Register today and bring your interests, questions, and “Happy 800th Birthday” cards (small joke - neither cards nor gifts expected) to our unique Magna Carta at 800 continuing legal education program on May 29, 2015. 

May 2015 DC Luncheon with Mark Brnovich

Washington, DC Lawyers Chapter Friday, May 29, 12:00 PMTony Cheng's Restaurant
619 H St NW
Washington, DC 20007
Mark Brnovich

Join us on May 29 for the Washington, DC Lawyers Chapter Luncheon featuring Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich as he discusses the topic of "The Battle between the States and the Federal Government". The cost is $15 for members of the Society and $20 for non-members. [Register now!]

Justice Mark Massa Indiana Supreme Court

Indianapolis Lawyers Chapter Tuesday, June 09, 12:00 PMConrad Indianapolis
50 West Washington
Indianapolis, IN 46204


  • Justice Mark Massa, Indiana Supreme Court

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