Jeremy Derfner

Jeremy Derfner is a writing fellow at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

It Pays to Discover

Frank I. Michelman's Brennan and Democracy 01.03.00 | reviewed by Jeremy Derfner Frank I. Michelman is a political theorist with a problem. He believes in democracy-all the people deciding for themselves how they will be governed. He also believes in the Consti tution, a 200-year-old document that sets down the fundamental rules of governance, "a law of law making," as Michelman puts it. But how can he believe in both? How can he reconcile "the paradox of constitutional democracy," whereby a democratic society puts so much faith in its foundational principles, which are for the most part removed from the democratic political process? To compound his problem, Michelman also has boundless respect for former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, who for 30 years brought his moral sensibili ties to bear on the Constitution and came to personify the "activist" judge. Now Michelman's democracy is bound by what one man says about one document that nobody alive today has had any part in...

Photo Finishes

I n California 's 27th district, in suburban Los Angeles, Republican incumbent James Rogan is especially vulnerable this year because he acted as House prosecutor during President Clinton's impeachment trial. But his seat was never very secure to start with. Although Rogan has won two terms (his last with only 51 percent of the vote), his district is 45 percent Democrat and only 37 percent Republican by registration. Rogan's challenger, state senator Adam Schiff, is respected and has raised $1.5 million. Rogan has raised $3.3 million in what is shaping up to be the most expensive House race in history. In the open California primaries held in early March, Schiff narrowly outpolled Rogan. INCUMBENT: James Rogan 1998: Rogan 51%, Democrat 46% 1996: Clinton 49%, Dole 41%, Perot 7% 1992: Clinton 44%, Bush 36%, Perot 19% fundraising as of 12/31/99: Rogan $3,331,079, Schiff $1,459,338 cash on hand as of 12/31/99: Rogan $758,804, Schiff $710,007 Michigan 's eighth district (Lansing) is a...

The New Black Caucus

C ongressman James Clyburn has built his political career hammering out compromises behind the scenes. He has worked for economic growth in his eclectic South Carolina district, lobbying successfully for a Honda plant in Timmonsville, a significant increase in the state's share of federal highway funds, direct flights from Charleston to Chicago, and the deepening of Charleston Harbor. In Washington he has earned a reputation as a talented negotiator. "If the distance between you and the other person is five steps," Clyburn likes to say, "then you damn sure ought to be willing to take two steps." Plenty of representatives do their jobs according to the Clyburn model, but in addition to being the first black congressman from South Carolina since Reconstruction, Clyburn is also the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). And that makes him very different indeed. The contrast between Clyburn and his immediate predecessor, the brash and outspoken Maxine Waters of Los Angeles, is...

Southern Cross

George W. Bush has ducked the question of whether South Carolina should haul down the Confederate flag. But regardless of Bush's position, the flag will likely come down, and soon. Even before the huge demonstration on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, some of South Carolina's most venerable and conservative institutions (the Citadel, Bob Jones University, the South Carolina Baptist Convention) have been lobbying to lower the flag, stimulated in part by the NAACP's call last July for a tourism boycott. Black South Carolinians, roughly 30 percent of the population, have been against the flag since it was raised by an all-white general assembly in 1962. But serious debate has begun only recently. The first public hearing took place in 1994, when the Republican-controlled house killed the Democrat-controlled senate's plan to move the flag from the capitol dome to a Confederate monument on the statehouse grounds. Two years later, Republican Governor David Beasley--...

The 101st Senator?

In 1974 Congress created the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) "to provide the Congress with objective, timely, nonpartisan analyses needed for economic and budget decisions." Over the last quarter-century, members of the minority party (be they Republicans or Democrats) have sometimes raised concerns about how the CBO's numbers have been crunched. But, in general, the office has compiled an impressive record of impartiality in what is after all an inherently political institution. At least, that was the case until the Republican majority selected its fifth director of CBO, Dan Crippen. Since being appointed in February 1999, Crippen has taken it upon himself to inject his opinions into debates on every issue from Medicare to Social Security to the budget. Crippen came to the CBO with impeccable conservative credentials. In the 1980s, he worked as chief counsel and economic policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and later moved with Baker...

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