Creative Economy

Constitutional law and blogging are a good mix for Scott Lemieux

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Constitutional law and blogging are a good mix for Scott Lemieux

“He’s exactly the guy I would have picked if I were a Republican.”

Scott Lemieux is sitting in a coffee shop near the University at Albany campus, where he is a member of the adjunct faculty, and he is discussing Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch is a solid conservative in the mode of the late Justice Scalia, and may even be more conservative than Scalia.

Gorsuch, “is a very smart Scalia clone,” Lemieux says. “It shows you how seriously the Republicans take the Supreme Court.” He notes the contrast between the Gorsuch pick and Trump’s ridiculous cabinet appointees to underline his point.

Lemieux isn’t a Republican, however. In fact, despite the fact that his area of expertise is U.S. constitutional law, he’s a Canadian–thus the Calgary Flames hat he has with him. He’s also no fan of Gorsuch, as revealed in a post he recently wrote on the blog he cofounded over a decade ago, Lawyers Guns and Money: “Gorsuch will most assuredly be an ‘originalist’ and ‘textualist’ in the sense that Scalia was. Which is why he should be filibustered even if his appointment was legitimate, which it isn’t.”

Yes, there are still many fine blogs in this age of Twitter.

And here’s why they were, and still are, important. A top presidential aide tells a reporter that he’s stuck “in what we call the reality-based community. . . . We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

Was it Kellyanne Conway? Steve Bannon? Nope, Karl Rove, talking a decade ago to author Ron Suskind, about the George W. Bush administration.

This is just a reminder that we, as a country, have been down this road before. George W. Bush “misled” us into a war in Iraq, and the mainstream media, in large part, went along for the ride. It took a couple of years for the media to catch up with reality of what was happening over there, and one of the places to go if you wanted to be part of a “reality-based community” were liberal blogs like Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Lawyers, Guns & Money debuted in 2004, when, Lemieux says, the three original bloggers thought, “why don’t we have a blog?” They were at the University of Washington at Seattle then; Lemieux came up with the name.

An informal network of liberal blogs seemed to arise out of nowhere, and became a key source of news–and mainstream media criticism–in the second Bush term. Example: At a time when The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman was writing over and over that “the next six months in Iraq” would be crucial, blogger Duncan Black (aka Atrios) came up with the derogatory term “Friedman unit” to describe the pundit’s refusal to face reality of failure and adjust his view. It stuck.

“It was Twitter before Twitter,” Lemieux laughs. When the reporter mentions he found LGM through Black’s blog Eschaton, Lemieux says, “I don’t know how Atrios found us. He actively sought out liberal blogs,” Lemieux explains, “and linked to them.”

That led to wider recognition.

“I was writing about the [Samuel] Alito nomination when the American Prospect found my blog posts,” he remembers. The Democrats were taking an entirely too rosy view of Alito, Lemieux argued at the time, when the judge, in his view, was actually completely political. If the choice was between Scalia and Alito, he argued, “take Scalia.”

Time has proven him correct on Alito. Since then, Lemieux has become a regular contributor to The Guadian and Policy.Mic, among other online and print publications.

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Here we are, on the other side of the Obama presidency, facing another Republican administration with an even more tenuous relationship to reality. Lawyers, Guns and Money now has almost a dozen contributing writers, and covers subjects as wide-ranging as politics, the law, military affairs, history and economics.

“I just finished writing that while Trump was the worst case scenario [for the presidency],” Lemieux says, “getting rid of the Affordable Care Act [under Trump] is a really tough lift.” His analysis? The Republicans may find it too hard to agree on any health care plan of their own, given how far apart they are on the nuts-and-bolts of the issue. He appreciates the irony: “The Freedom Caucus saved Social Security, they may save the ACC.”

How did Lemieux end up studying American constitutional law?

“When I was doing my M.A. at McGill [University, in Montreal], I read a lot about American courts (in part because Canada’s bill of rights was so young that the literature had to be comparative–the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was ratified in 1982),” he remembers. “Once I started I found it was something I really enjoyed both writing and teaching about.”

How did he end up in Albany?

Lemieux was hired by the College of Saint Rose in 2009. He didn’t include LGM on his CV–why would he?–so when the woman who hired him realized the connection, she said, “Oh you’re that Scott Lemieux.”

Lemieux was happy at Saint Rose; he explains that he never went job hunting until the college eliminated his job along with over 20 others in a budget-cutting move. Fall 2016 was his last semester there; his last day was Dec. 27. Now at the University at Albany, he is actively looking around for a full-time gig.

“When I came here I knew I’d like it, though I didn’t know the area at all,” adding, “If I end up having to leave here, it won’t be because I want to.”

Photos by Leif Zurmuhlen

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