Dahlia Lithwick (Slate) Advises Democrats on How To Deal With Federalists:

An excellent piece, and a fun read to boot. And, yes, please do pet our soft, luxuriant hair.

Rhadamanthus1982 (mail) (www):
Ah it's always to refreshing to read such satirical wit. I can particularly visualise Senator Kennedy poking the said federalist with his stick.
1.13.2006 7:25pm
Perhaps Alito isn't so hostile to Roe, or at least to parts of it. After all, his wife plainly believes in the vitality of one element of the Court's decision: the CRYER exception to mootness.
1.13.2006 7:41pm
One thing that I've always wondered about is why the Federalist Society chose the name "Federalist." The original Federalists very much favored the power of the federal government over that of the states and individual rights were of secondary importance. The party of Adams and Hamilton would certainly be good Republicans today, but I doubt that anyone would mistake them for libertarians.
1.13.2006 7:44pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
Perhaps the "Anti-federalist Society" was perceived as confusing to people not well versed in 18th century American history.

I for one welcome a debate based on ideas. Not least of which is the reason that public policy should be formulated from good ideas, not from bad ideas borne by appealing messengers.

I also suspect that few senators want to take a chance of being embarassed by arguing law and public policy against an intellectual heavyweight like the average supreme court nominee. The truth is that socialism and intrusive government dont dovetail well with any reasonable reading of the constition. Short of scripting the entire conversation, it will be very difficult to engage in a policy discussion with an intelligent Federalist Society member without various obvious and painful contradictions being raised.
1.13.2006 7:59pm
James Dillon (mail):
"Oh … and if you wrong them, they will revenge."

Way to abandon the high ground! I was enjoying the article's point that the the federalist/conservative judicial philosophy is more complex than the caricatures sometimes portrayed in progressive media until that not-so-subtle reminder of why judicial conservatives and the NRA crowd seem to get along so well.
1.13.2006 8:00pm
Splunge (mail):
WTF is it with Miss Jeckyll 'n' Hyde? She writes such excellent, sensible, witty stuff as this, and then, not a day later, turns around and writes some turgid humorless lecture as sententious as the declamations of a newly-crowned Miss America, and as full of long-range perspective as the mating season croak of a horny arroyo toad. Weird.
1.13.2006 8:02pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I think they chose Federalist Society because the intent was to bring back the concepts of federalism. While at the time of the founding "federalists" wanted a strong federal government, the principles of federalism as understood today are those relating to dual sovereigns (state and federal). I don't think they intended any reference to early American political parties by the choice. They are not Federalists in the sense that Hamilton was, rather they are Federalists in the sense of supporters of federalsim.
1.13.2006 8:11pm
Just an Observer:
I don't always agree with Dahlia Lithwick's point of view, but she can turn a phrase. I also recommend her narrative account of the recent oral arguments in Ayotte, if only for its entertainment value.
1.13.2006 8:53pm
drewsil (mail):
Actually I think the name federalist society is completely appropriate, both historically and literally. While it is true that at the founding federalists wanted to increase the power of the federal government, it is quite probable that many of those federalists, if alive today, would instead act to return power to the states. Federalism attempts to find a balance between state and federal government. Today's federalists believe that the federal government has become too powerful and needs to be curtailed. Yesterdays federalists thought the states were too powerful, and so the federal government needed to be bolstered. Given that these were distinctly different governments, and that the overall trend has been towards more federal power, the positions held by the original federalists and current federalists are reconcileable, and most likely consistent (a true argument for consistency would require much more factual support than I can muster here).

Oh and *pet* *pet* good federalist.

1.13.2006 9:02pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Politics have always corrupted language. The original concept of federalism was an idea opposed to centralism, but the advocates of centralism stole a march and called themselves the Federalists, leaving the federalists ironically to call themselves Anti-Federalists. This wasn't a very good name for a political party, so the Anti-Federalists (federalists) became the Democratic Republicans, which was a cumbersome title for a philosophy that was, essentially, whiggism, and it was usually shortened as Republicans, until Andrew Jackson and after that they were renamed Democrats. So the centralists had been losing ground to the whigs, and briefly formed a new party called the Whigs (which they were not). The Whig party fell apart and became the Republicans.

Are we confused yet?
1.13.2006 9:06pm
Cornellian (mail):
Perhaps it would have been better to call it the "Federalism Society", though I always read the actual name "Federalist Society" as referring to a concern for federalism, not "federalist" in the sense that word might have had at the time of the Federalist Papers.
1.13.2006 9:15pm
Splunge (mail):
It's also true that both the original Federalists and today's incarnation seem to prefer a strong Executive and distrust populism. Further, I think Jefferson would have been at home in the modern Democratic Party. He was personally rather an intellectual imperialist and dedicated theoretician, fonder of the glorious phrase and dedication to high principle than to grubby empirical reality and taking decisive, if imperfectly conceived and execute action. His adherence to the French Revolutionaries long past the time they turned into bloody despots is only the most salient evidence.
1.13.2006 9:30pm
Defending the Indefensible:
I find it especially ironic that we call the national government the "Federal government".
1.13.2006 9:35pm
Just an Observer:
Remember the adjective: Today it's the New Federalism.

I recall during the early 1980s I asked a senior aide in the U.S. House of Representatives what members thought of the "New Federalism." He replied, "Most of these guys have served in statehouses, and they know that if you lined up all the jerks in the world, the first ten of them would be state legislators."

Having seen the inside of a couple of statehouses during their biennial rut, I had to laugh. But I also thought a similar remark might be made about the inhabitants of the federal legislature. I wasn't around in 1787, but I suspect those folks were also human.
1.13.2006 9:49pm
Defending the Indefensible:
New Federalism, New Democrats, Neo-Conservatives, and now Neo-Libertarians, all seem to be more or less using the word "new" or the prefix "neo" to mean "not at all, really"
1.13.2006 10:01pm
frankcross (mail):
I always figured that Federalist was simply meant to signify originalism. Like all needed to interpret the Constitution could be found in the text and the Federalist papers.
1.13.2006 10:02pm
"Federalist" in 1787 actually meant "having soft luxuriant hair suitable for petting." So I think the name is totally appropriate.

Calling it the "Federalism Society" would totally obscure that.

I think in Federalist Paper No. 103, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton described their soft luxuriant hair and rebutted accusations by Thomas Jefferson that their hair was in fact coarse or fake. It's truly a masterpiece and shamefully not reproduced in most edititons.
1.13.2006 10:50pm
PS: it amuses us Federalists to no end when the American Constitution Society tries to emulate us but invites lots of people with bad hair to speak at its conventions. They completely miss the point. It's well and good to talk about ideas, politics, constitutional issues, etc., but without soft, luxuriant hair it's all meaningless.
1.13.2006 10:53pm
Gary Lawson actually did want to call the Federalist Society the "Anti-Federalist Society." He thought "federalist" was too nationalist. According to Steven Calabresi, quoted in the November 2005 Fed Soc newsletter, the name "Federalist Society" was chosen for three reasons:

First, the name of the proponents of the Constitution of 1787 was "The Federalists" and I liked the idea of associating ourselves with the Founding Federalists. Second, I greatly admired the Federalist Papers, especially the ones contributed by James Madison, who immediately became our emblem....Third, I was very committed to the idea of federalism as an ideal form of government compared either to nationalism or states rights....I liked the idea that calling ourselves the Federalist Society in an era of extreme national power would convey our opposition to the overly Big National Government in Washington D.C.
1.13.2006 10:53pm
Brian Frye (mail) (www):

"Federalist" in 1787 actually meant "having soft luxuriant hair suitable for petting." So I think the name is totally appropriate.

On the contrary, only Democratic Republicans sported "soft luxuriant hair suitable for petting." Recall, Federalists like Justice Cushing plumped for the powdered wig. Obviously, that's because they couldn't compete with Jefferson's fabulous mop. And why else would he advise ditching the darn thing? "For heaven's sake, discard the monstrous wig which makes the English judges look like rats peeping through bunches of oakum."
1.13.2006 11:20pm
Defending the Indefensible:

Personally I most admired the Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republican. Which is classical federalism (but Anti-Federalism). I think too few people actually ever read the other side of that debate, and retrospect on who was closer to being right about how things would turn out.

Madison himself broke with Hamilton and was eventually aligned more with Jefferson. And of course, Jefferson himself didn't participate in the Constitutional debate because he was in France at the time it was going on, but it's a good bet he'd be opposed to Hamilton in this as in most things.

When people speak of the "Founding Fathers" as a single, unified whole it seems a bit schizophrenic, given the very real divisions of opinion that existed from the very outset. Even going back to the Declaration of Independence, the phrase "Pursuit of Happiness" is a sore thumb that sticks out because of differences over the idea of property.
1.13.2006 11:51pm
KMAJ (mail):
As we do our history lessons, we often hear about Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson, but forget the Father of the Bill of Rights, George Mason, an anti-federalist.

The Democrat party was founded in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson as the Democratic Republican Party and was referred to as the Republican Party. The Democrat Party we know today was a split off from the party of Jefferson and Madison, under the leadership of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Any party claim to Jefferson and Madison by today's democrats is very loose, as Jackson was not an admirer of either, and neither of them would support the social programs in place today.

The Federalist Party was a separate party that disintegrated in 1816. The Whig Party existed from 1832 to 1856.

The Republican Party we know today came into being in 1854, basically on an anti-slavery platform and were considered Hamiltonians, socially conservative and neo-liberal economically. They tried to model it after Adams' and Clay's National Republican Party and Jefferson's Democratic Republican Party. History allows both parties to lay claim to Jefferson.

Probably the most bastardized word in politics is 'liberal'. The right has turned it into a slur, the left has totally changed its meaning. Liberalism, in the classic sense, is a conservative ideology, with its foundational tenets being individual freedom, socially and economically, and limited government. Today's progressive movement has sought to usurp the word, but more accurately would be described as neo-socialism or neo-Marxism. There is not much in the progressive movement that represents liberalism in its true form.
1.14.2006 3:18am
Defending the Indefensible:
From the Federal Farmer to the Republican, October 8, 1787:
The plan of government now proposed is evidently calculated totally to change, in time, our condition as a people. Instead of being thirteen republics, under a federal head, it is clearly designed to make us one consolidated government. Of this, I think, I shall fully convince you, in my following letters on this subject. This consolidation of the states has been the object of several men in this country for some time past. Whether such a change can ever be effected in any manner; whether it can be effected without convulsions and civil wars; whether such a change will not totally destroy the liberties of this country — time only can determine.
1.14.2006 3:42am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
Herbert Storing's Anti-Federalist Papers (which I think are out of print) or Library of America's edition of the Anti-Federalist Papers by Charles Baylin are an excellent -- and inexpensive -- read. They should be read by everyone interested in understanding the founding debates about the role of government. The person I think most interesting in the founding generation is George Clinton (governor of New York, not psychodelic funk guy) and there are, I believe several books that discuss his role in shaping our Republic.

Actually, Akhil Amar had a great article a couple of years ago in, I think, the William and Mary Quarterly on the legacy of the anti-Federalists to Constitutional interpretation.

Finally, a good read is Saul Cornell's The Other Founders. While I think that Cornell (the head of Ohio State's "gun studies" institute) is a bit biased towards socialism and tries to fit the Antis into that mold even when unwarranted, the book is very interesting nonetheless.
1.14.2006 3:50pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Calabresi has privately told me much the same as he is quoted as saying: that whereas the Federalists in the late 1780s and early 1790s favored a stronger federal government instead of a weak one, a person today who agreed more or less with their proposed balance between state and federal power would now favor a weaker federal goverment. Thus, Federalist Society founders see themselves as favoring a federal system with effective checks and balances, rather than favoring either a very strong or a very weak national government.
1.15.2006 10:02pm